Updated: City of Edmonds terminates contract with Hand Up Project

Updated March 3 with information from the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office and The Hand Up Project Executive Team.

The City of Edmonds announced Tuesday that it has terminated its contract with The Hand Up Project, which removes unauthorized encampments in compliance with environmental laws. The city said it ended the contract in light of recent information that was discovered about the organization’s founder, Robert Smiley.

The city did not elaborate on the information it had acquired, and spokesperson Kelsey Foster said there were no further details available. However, Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office PIO Courtney O’Keefe said in a follow-up email that they were investigating fraud allegations against the founder.

“Detectives are actively investigating to determine if a crime has occurred,” she said.

After the city’s announcement, The Hand Up Project Board of Directors issued a statement Tuesday that is has terminated its relationship with Smiley and his wife Theresa, and they will no longer be associated with the organization.

“After a thorough review – both internally and by external third parties – any actions by Mr. Smiley were solely his and had no relation or effect on any of our community offerings,” the statement said. “While we are deeply saddened by these events, The Hand Up Project is now in a better position to execute its mission of affirming the inherent value of all people.”

The city announced in early February that it had contracted with the Lynnwood-based The Hand Up Project as part of Mayor Mike Nelson’s initiative to address homelessness. The agreement was not to exceed $25,000 per year.

However,  the city said in its Tuesday press release that “the contract was on an as-needed basis and the city did not utilize the organization’s services in any capacity.” As a result, no city funds were paid to The Hand Up Project for the contract.

When asked for further details regarding the fraud allegations, The Hand Up Project Executive Team said in an email that, “due to federal and state employment laws, we cannot discuss employment matters regarding a specific employee. We believe that all people – including and especially Mr. Smiley right now – have inherent value. While we are shocked and hurt by the information, we will protect the Smiley’s privacy. We are hopeful that Mr. Smiley will get the help he needs.”

–By Lauren Reichenbach


  1. I am confused about this statement “The City of Edmonds announced Tuesday that it has terminated its contract with The Hand Up Project, which removes unauthorized encampments in compliance with environmental laws.” Does this mean that the Meadowdale Beach Park is now free to homeless people to make this park their home?

    Thank you,

    1. I’m not certain, but is that park even in the City of Edmonds? I ask because it appears that the upgrades to that park are being directed by the county, not by the City of Edmonds. Is it even our problem?

    2. Tent cities in Shoreline area move every three -four months….doe Edmonds offer this solution?.it is sad that some folks park their tent I’m a public park and trash the area…leaving needles, fecals, and garbage while all have some income….and many do not care.l
      Edmonds needs a program to divert homeless from sensitive areas…however, if they refuse housing, and work, let them not eat…

  2. I hope that the city finds a replacement for this needed city service to the homeless.
    It is concerning that the city did not help the small encampments which house more families statistically, and remained off Mayor Nelson’s ” who needs help”list.

    1. Agreed. Concerning. We need to ro our share and be aware of the struggles of our fellow man. Edmonds already is noted as having s 67% higher cost of living and serve ca 600 clients at our Edmonds Food Bank. We have a great need bright here in our own community if we open our eyes n hearts. Shoreline rotates around s lot of churches.. There is s great space at Edmonds Lutheran or Church of God.

  3. Wow – this article raises more questions than it answers. If the organization terminated its relationship with the “offending” individuals, then why is it necessary to get rid of the useful contract with this organization. Somehow, this smacks of petty and petulant behavior on the part of city individuals that does not serve the community well and may well be cause for action by the organization. Support services of this nature are hard to find – did we really have to take this major step when the organization had terminated the services of the individual who had done something unaligned with the organization?

  4. According to an article in the Daily Herald of Everett from today, detectives from the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office are currently investigating the nonprofit for fraud.

  5. How were these non profit companies suppose to deal with the homeless in the first place? Seems like we are throwing money to anyone who says they will take this matter on. There have been several non profits (in which we gave thousands and thousands) in this state..for what? There was a big one in Spokane area that government (governor Inslee) gave our money to and they are now thought to be crooks.

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