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$8,500 stolen from Brother Francis Shelter safes

Kyle Hopkins

About $8,500 is missing from two locked safes at the Brother Francis Shelter, primarily money belonging to homeless people who sleep there.

Catholic Social Services, which runs the shelter, discovered the theft on Dec. 27 and reported it to police, said executive director Susan Bomalaski. The non-profit ended the employment of the new program director on the same day, she said.

She would not say why the director left or whether he is a suspect in the theft, saying that would conflict with an ongoing police investigation and the confidentiality of personnel issues.

"We're very shocked, upset, devastated that funds were taken. The money will be replaced," Bomalaski said.

As of last week, the shelter housed roughly 340 people, including 110 who stayed overnight at nearby Bean's Café. A spokeswoman for Catholic Social Services said there's no evidence that any donations to the charity were stolen. The majority of donations are collected at offices separate from the shelter, she wrote in an email.

Bomalaski said people who stay at the shelter eat and sleep for free but some clients are part of a program that requires them to save 70 percent of any income they receive to pay for housing when they leave. That's the money someone cleaned out of the safes around Christmas time at the 3rd Avenue shelter, Bomalaski said.

Some amount of petty cash was also stolen.

"We want people to have confidence in the way we run our programs and things like this don't fit in with our mission and our vision," Bomalaski said.

The shelter's program director, Steven Sparks, began work running day-to-day operations in late fall, according to a December newsletter.

"Steven has a huge heart full of compassion for those individuals who find themselves in need of the services that the shelter provides," Catholic Social Services Deputy Director Mary Beth Bragiel wrote at the time.

Sparks was last seen at the shelter on Christmas Day, Bomalaski said. Catholic Social Services board members were notified late last week that he no longer worked for the agency.

Bomalaski said she does not know where he is now. "But that's often the case, when people leave our employment, we don't know where they are."

Bomalaski declined to provide a copy of Sparks' resume.

The shelter did not officially announce the theft, though word of the missing money has likely circulated at the shelter, Bomalaski said. The non-profit is covering the cost of repaying clients, she said.

There is no evidence that a client staying at the shelter took the money, Bomalaski said. "The safes are secured."

She said she does not know how many people had access to them.


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