Concord homeless advocates launch fundraising campaign for shelter, operations

  • Concord Coalition to End Homelessness Executive Director Ellen Groh and Chairman Michael Leuchtenberger unveil a fundraising tracker at the nonprofit's annual meeting Wednesday, June 14, 2017. NICK REID—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 6/14/2017 11:50:34 PM

A Concord nonprofit dedicated to ending homelessness is reaching out to the public for the financial backing to establish a stable cold-weather shelter and run it for three years.

The Concord Coalition to End Homelessness launched a campaign Wednesday that seeks $528,000 in private donations to go along with various other sources totaling $1.63 million.

“The Safe Spaces campaign, yes, it is certainly a campaign that will help fund our cold-weather shelter building construction, but it goes beyond that, much beyond that,” said the Rev. Michael Leuchtenberger, chairman of the nonprofit’s board of directors.

Executive Director Ellen Groh said that amount would be enough for her organization to purchase the rented property where it currently operates its homeless resource center, build a 40-person shelter out back, and keep it and all the existing programming running for three years.

That would relieve the anxiety of the past two winters, she said, when a stopgap, low-barrier shelter was established at the last minute in a church that’s expected to be unavailable this year.

“It was a nightmare these last two winters,” Groh said. “We spent so much time and energy, starting in the summer, leading up to a frenzied pace in December, trying to find an interim solution.”

She added: “To not have to do that will be enormous, and to know that the safety net is there, so we can keep our focus on permanent housing – we don’t want to be spending all of our time in a frenzy.”

Groh said she hopes the new emergency shelter can be up and running at the rear of the 238 N. Main St. site by December – even if the full donation request isn’t yet met – just steps from the coalition’s resource center, where it provides caseworker support, showers, laundry, mail and connections to other service providers.

The $1.63 million total includes a $738,000 one-time expense on facilities, the coalition said. That’s $200,000 to purchase the property, $490,000 for site work and construction and $48,000 of required reserves.

One of the revenue streams needed to pay for those expenses came through Wednesday, Leuchtenberger said. The Community Development Finance Authority awarded $345,000 in business tax credits to the coalition for the project. Leuchtenberger said he’s “relatively confident” that another $250,000 from the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority will come through later this month.

To round out the facilities, $143,000 in private donations is needed, the coalition said. Leuchtenberger said $95,000 has been raised privately so far.

“A really strong start,” he said. “It’s key to have the construction take place on this cold weather shelter, but in a sense, that’s the easy part. That’s the sort of sexy thing, the visible thing, many people are sort of drawn to supporting it – but what’s really important, and this is why it’s a three-year campaign ... is the funding of our operating expenses.”

He added: “If we have a building and we have no operating support, it’s just a shell. It’s not going to do anything for us in our community.”

The operational components will total $892,000 over three years, according to a document detailing the plan, mostly for programming expenses.

The coalition expects to pay those expenses using $150,000 in grants; $132,000 in fundraising events; and $225,000 in city, county and state funding. The remainder is $385,000 in private donations.

Outside the resource center at the coalition’s annual meeting Wednesday, Leuchtenberger unveiled a thermometer-style fundraising chart that he said would be visible there to demonstrate how the donations progressed. As it stood, $433,000 had yet to be filled in.

“We have all that that needs to be red by the end of this time,” he said, gesturing to the diagram. “So we are looking, at this stage in our campaign, especially at major donors. If you feel you’re in that category or happen to know people who might be in that category, Ellen or I would love to have a conversation with you.”

(Nick Reid can be reached at 369-3325, or on Twitter at @NickBReid.)

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