The group proposes to operate an urban refuge
A nonprofit that operates in Little Rock and seven other states that wants to become the first operator of a homeless shelter in Pine Bluff made a speech to city leaders Thursday, saying the first year of operation would cost the city more than half. million bucks. City officials said much of that money would come from outside sources.
DePaul USA, which operates Jericho Way, a drop-in center for homeless people in Little Rock, has submitted a proposal to the city to operate Opportunity House, Pine Bluff’s planned shelter, which will be located in the former First Ward Elementary School. at 1300 E. Fifth Ave.
Two Depaul officials met in person and one met online to make a presentation to a local committee that advised the mayor’s office on what a homeless shelter in Pine Bluff should include. City officials and others also attended the meeting, which was held in the council chamber.
Based on the criteria for the shelter that the committee, Mayor Shirley Washington and her assistant, Cynthia Anderson, the project manager, said were needed, it would appear that Depaul’s proposal will be given serious consideration.
“I think we’re headed in the right direction,” Washington said after the hour-long meeting that included a PowerPoint presentation from Charles Levesque, executive director of Chicago-based Depaul USA, who addressed the audience through the through streaming. service. “I frequently hear citizens ask me when are we going to find refuge. Some of the people who need this service are coming back from correctional institutions and need to get back on their feet.
James Evans-Hammond, director of Jericho Way, reviewed the details of a phase one budget that included items such as staff, supplies, food and administrative expenses totaling $540,694 for the first year and a maximum customer load of 30 people. In all, there would be eight full-time employees, including a social worker, and five part-time employees, he said.
That amount is slightly more than the city wanted to spend, but Washington said it feels good the two sides are close.
“As a committee, we said if the cost of running the facility was over $500,000, we couldn’t do it, that it would probably be beyond our means. So we still have some negotiations to be done, and we are comfortable with where we are,” Washington said.
She also said she was pleased with Depaul’s presentation and the nonprofit’s track record.
“We called other cities where Depaul operates centers and asked about their experience, and we heard only good things, no complaints,” Washington said.
A second phase for Opportunity House under Depaul would include the addition of a second social worker allowing the facility to manage up to 50 clients, a number that has been the committee’s goal from the start.
Tish Stevenson, assistant manager of Jericho Way, who has worked at Depaul for six years, highlighted the many ways the Little Rock facility works to increase a client’s chance of overcoming homelessness. From providing laundry services, showers and hot meals to mail, telephone, internet and health care services, Jericho Way strives to solve what prevents someone from becoming self-sufficient, a- she declared.
The nonprofit succeeds, the three officials said, because it creates partnerships with various entities providing social services in a community, even extending that reach to colleges, which they said sometimes have students who become homeless because they cannot afford to pay school fees and maintain housing.
Levesque said much of what he does is raise money for DePaul USA, either through grants or through donations from foundations and individuals. Such work, he said, would also fall to a new director of Opportunity House who should not only oversee the internal workings, but also start bringing in donations.
“No money, no mission,” Lévesque said. “Absolutely, we have to focus on both.”
Those dollars raised, he said, would not replace required city funding, but instead would be used to expand what Depaul could do in the community.
In Little Rock, for example, the amount the city pays Depaul to operate Jericho Way now doesn’t cover what that operation provides to the community, such as building housing for low-income people. Therefore, additional funds are raised by Depaul to pay for these additional services, Levesque said.
To help the Pine Bluff project, Levesque said he would consider renaming the operation in the state to leverage donations from central Arkansas.
The Town of Pine Bluff is also reportedly seeking outside funds from grants and donations to pay for the operation of the facility.
Washington said the city would be able to find $300,000 in grants for the project, leaving the city to pay about $200,000 out of its own pocket, although she said there are other grants and opportunities to raising funds that could be used to reduce even the city portion. After.
Additionally, the city would be responsible for maintenance and utilities associated with the facility, although Evans-Hammond said that after the first year, Depaul would review his finances and possibly take responsibility for paying for utilities. public.
Larry Matthews, director of the Department of Economic and Community Development, said renovations to First Ward School were estimated at $600,000 and the work will be announced in mid-August. Grants and federal dollars would also be used for this work, he said.
Anderson said the committee will now meet to review the presentation made by Depaul. A green light from the committee would send the proposal to the city council. Washington said it would like that to happen “soon”.
Fourth Ward Council member Bruce Lockett, who was in attendance, said he was pleased with Depaul’s presentation.
“I think it’s good and worth pursuing,” he said. “There are enough possibilities and opportunities with them that I think the mayor is onto something. Depaul has it all figured out.”
Depaul’s proposal says the nonprofit operation in the United States has been around for 13 years and includes eight states. Around the world, Depaul operates in six countries, with a presence in war-torn Ukraine, Levesque said.
The guiding principles by which Depaul operates were set forth by Saint Vincent de Paul, who dedicated his life to the poor, sick, and needy, and by Saint Louise de Marillac, who, with de Paul, was the co-foundress of the Daughters of Charity.