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By Valerie D. Lockhart
SUN EXECUTIVE EDITOR
Reluctantly, Chana Hardin answered a call from an unidentified caller on the fourth attempt and received news that most parents dread hearing, “Your house is on fire and your children are in the hospital.”
Without hesitation, Hardin rushed to the hospital to learn that her 13-year-old daughter was cooking and fell asleep. She escaped by jumping out of a second floor window and sprung her ankle. Her 25-year-old disabled son was found in the basement and rescued by the fire department. He was hospitalized for a few days due to smoke inhalation.
“I lost a lot more in the fire on December 8 then I knew,” Hardin said. “My friends that I use to have I lost them in the fire. My phone used to ring off the hook, before the fire. Someone was always sleeping on my couch or calling me for help. Now, my phone has stopped ringing.”
All of Hardin’s belongings including her daughter’s beloved therapy dog were lost. There was no insurance, so she would have to start again.
Although the fire department extinguished the flames leaving behind charred remnants of furniture, a new blaze was ignited when Hardin turned to the Travelers Aid Society of Metropolitan Detroit for help.
The non-profit organization that was founded in 1923 website states, “The mission of Travelers Aid Society is to provide homeless individuals and families with individualized supportive services and tailored housing solutions with a goal of obtaining and maintaining affordable housing.”
Hardin was pleased to learn that the group was able to provide her with a home and was told to come pick up the keys.
The keys would mark a second chance to regain stability, instead of couch surfing, sleeping in her car, scraping up funds for a hotel or considering sleeping in abandon homes.
She learned of the government funded agency years ago while attending a court ordered anger management class, and her past interactions with case managers had been positive.
“Case managers work closely with families to identify their needs, whether they be housing needs, food needs, mental or physical health needs, childcare needs, employment needs or any other needs, and work with community partners and service providers to ensure those needs are met,” notes the agency’s website.
The case worker assigned to her was equally professional and helpful. However, when Hardin arrived at the agency to pick up the keys, her manager was not there.
While waiting in the reception area, Hardin was allegedly confronted, instead of greeted, by Roslyn Baughman, the agency’s CEO.
“She wasn’t dressed like a CEO with her breasts hanging out,” Hardin said. “She started questioning me in front of two children, another client and a worker that were in the lobby. She kept asking me personal questions about my daughter’s mental state, where is her father and why was she left home alone. I told her that it was an accident, she wasn’t alone, and how cooking mishaps happen to adults too.”
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A fire of a different type erupted when Baughman allegedly insulted her daughter for the fourth time.
“I don’t resort to violence anymore, but I’m well versed. I spoke slowly and chose my words carefully. ‘In no way are you going to attack my child’”, Hardin said as she could no longer hold back tears. “I lost everything. I don’t even have on panties. I don’t have any lip gloss, so I have no preparation to kiss your (butt). I don’t know why you would come over and beat me down, but you will have a special place in the after-life.”
Several formal employees agree that Baughman belongs in a special place, but that place should not be in the position of CEO.
“She’s very harsh and does a lot of unethical things,” said a former case manager who wishes to remain anonymous until her complaint at the EEOC is heard. “She discriminates against black women in particular. She calls them bit****. She tried to force one woman to have her tubes tied, because she felt she had too many children. She had a condo and rented it under Travelers Aid. We’ve seen checks written out to her husband, Mark Baughman, for hundreds of thousands of dollars. She doesn’t allow case managers to have appointments with the board. She limits the information given to the clients. No one dares to go against her. The things we had to endure, you won’t believe. She said it’s nothing money can’t get you out of.”
Shortly, after Baughman took over as CEO the Office of the Inspector General of the Housing and Urban Development reportedly felt something was wrong with the organization’s handling of money.
“We audited Travelers Aid Society of Metropolitan Detroit’s Continuum of Care program. The audit was part of the activities in our fiscal year 2017 annual audit plan. We selected Travelers Aid’s program based on a request from the Director of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Detroit Office of Community Planning and Development and the results of HUD’s monitoring review of one of Travelers Aid’s fiscal year 2014 program grants. Our objective was to determine whether Travelers Aid administered its program in accordance with Federal regulations”, officials stated in a report.
The audit found that funds were being mishandled and not properly documented.
“Travelers Aid did not always administer its program in accordance with Federal regulations.
Specifically, it did not maintain sufficient documentation to support that (1) it met its matching contribution requirement for program-funded projects, (2) program administrative funds were used for eligible administrative expenses associated with the project for which the funds were drawn, (3) program income was used for the project that generated it and for eligible activities, and (4) program funds were used for eligible project expenses for supportive services and leasing. As a result, Travelers Aid is at risk of having to repay HUD more than $2.1 million due to a lack of sufficient documentation to support that it complied with Federal regulations regarding match contributions. In addition, HUD and Travelers Aid lacked assurance that Travelers Aid used nearly $171,000 in program income appropriately,” the report noted.
Former employees noted how past behavior is an indication of future behavior.
“If you’re able to get away with wrongdoing one time, you’re likely to try it again,” said a former employee. “She so used to doing wrong that it becomes natural for her, especially if no one is willing to speak up.”
Nearly 30 workers have reportedly resigned, since Baughman became CEO.
Obviously, Hardin was denied keys to the new home and was terminated from the program.
When questioned regarding her encounter with Hardin, Baughman responded via email saying, “Thank you for your interest in the TASMD housing program. As it relates to Ms. Hardin, we do not respond to inquiries about past or present clients due to privacy concerns.”
Hardin was officially terminated from the program on January 1, 2024, denying her help from other agencies during the holiday.
“When I spoke to workers at other agencies they said, ‘She got you. No one can help you until you’re terminated,’” Hardin said.
Fuel was poured on the flames of retaliation, and they’re yet to be extinguished. On the contrary, flames will intensify, as Hardin with help from others fight back.
“A queen doesn’t do nothing for another queen but help her to fix her crown, but you’re a troll. You’re stealing the jewels in a crown, because you’re not worthy,” Hardin said.
And, you can find that crown in the fire.