The Salvation Army is not charitable as this very personal account written by L Moar will attest.
The Salvation Army is not charitable. In a city near my home, they charge homeless people more per month to stay there than an efficiency apartment costs. If any two of their guests were to work together, then they could upgrade to a two bedroom apartment (in income-dependent subsidized housing). They pretend to be charitable for a tax exempt status, and then charge the homeless for indoctrination services.
After some predetermined time, they evict their broke guests who then typically move on to a camp in the woods even in the cases where they held jobs. Usually, without access to amenities such as a shower, these former guests lose their jobs. A number of them return to the Salvation Army after a year because they believe they are trying again to get on their feet. The church then happily repeats the act of exploiting and ejecting them.
When asked, they claim that the money they accept is held in savings for their guests. That is a half truth. After their charges, guests are required to hand over 75% of their remaining earnings, which are then held for them. However, with charges so high in an area where finding full time work at minimum wage is a non-trivial achievement for a person with a degree and experience, this does not add up to much. Guests typically leave with only enough money to buy a tent. Most are evicted for an inability to cover the payments in addition to expenses (child support, clothing, hygiene, transportation), even when they hold what jobs they can find.
From what I understand, the organization was not always this way. It has a long history of very charitable conduct, which is why they have not been investigated. The current state of affairs is the result of very gradual policy changes over a long period of time. This would all be okay if they represented themselves as what they actually are: for-pay Bible retreats. However, they mislead the homeless into believing that they are being helped and thereby prey on them for profit.
Were a secular organization to do this while teaching guests useful things such as basic accounting and job-seeking skills then its administrators would still find themselves in prison for fraud. What the Salvation Army does to the homeless is equivalent to "helping" a person who is unable to defend themselves by punching them in the face until they are unconscious and then repeating the process every time they wake up. Eventually all they learn is not to trust anybody, which does nothing to teach them vital skills but does in many cases complicate mental illness or increase a general distaste for society.
Upon realizing that a religious organization took advantage of them while they were vulnerable, the majority reject religion. So, the only ends the organization achieves are profits that fund the salaries of overpaid clergy and staff. Not coincidentally, I have been told that the majority of their daily "sermons" at mandatory "meetings" are about Biblical requirements to pay the priesthood and repetitive justification of their policies.
To further cloud the issue, this is not the policy at every one of their locations. I've looked into this. They mix up policies enough to maintain plausible deniability while remaining profitable.
They claim that the charges are so high to meet cost. With five twelve man rooms and each man (they discriminate against homeless women) paying $70/week, they bring in $16,800 / month. The meals they provide are covered by donations. So, the line about cost is a lie. To make matters worse, I hear they're considering an increase to $80 / week. This does not even take into account contractual sums paid by the Department of Veterans Affairs to cover charges for veteran guests in a separate wing -- which likely come out to a greater sum because those are three rooms with four beds each rather than twelve per room in the non-VA-sponsored wing.
Corroborated, consistent speculation from repeat guests who haven't met based on bits of information gleaned over a period of years and glimpses at their books and spreadsheets places their monthly revenue in the range of $80,000 to $100,000. If this organization were to become a corporation, then their stock would rapidly make investors wealthy.
Let's stop calling this organization charitable. Any charity performed by some locations is more than covered by exploitation and fraud at others. This is a for-profit religious school with a very lacking curriculum that exists only to justify its own existence.
Now, how do I know all of this? Two ways: First, a very short stay at that location during a hard period in my life, and second a continual stream of reports from homeless people I've helped write resumes, find services, and occasionally fed. Those who refuse to stay at this place are looked down upon as "not willing to help themselves," and rejected for services and employment on that basis. So, the homeless are royally screwed in my area. The only way to get off the streets is to very carefully and shrewdly prevent anybody of any importance to the process from discovering one's homeless status to begin with.