$1.44 million facility for homeless to open in fall

By Tammy Keith Originally Published August 15, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated August 14, 2013 at 11:04 a.m.
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Tammy Keith

Judi Lively, left, executive director of Bethlehem House, and Jill Imboden, development coordinator, look over laminate in the dining room of the two-story shelter that is nearing completion at 1115 Parkway Ave. in Conway. A capital campaign finished in 2012 was successful, but the project is estimated to cost about $80,000 more than expected, Lively said.

CONWAY —Walking through the two-story homeless shelter under construction in Conway just down the street from the current dilapidated one, Bethlehem House Executive Director Judi Lively was cautiously excited.

“They have convinced me it’s going to be finished in September,” Lively said. “We’re so excited.”

But … .

“There have been some unexpected expenses,” Lively said, her smile fading. “We’re probably $80,000 short of what we need, but more importantly, it’s affected our operational giving.”

The shelter launched a Hope for the Homeless capital campaign and raised $1.39 million by Dec. 31, 2012, which exceeded the campaign’s goal by $90,000.

The total included some matching funds to build the shelter at 1115 Parkway Ave.

Construction on the house is projected to cost $1.44 million.

The amount still needed is “above and beyond what we raised,” she said.

“While we’re not done and we don’t have the final numbers, we expect it to be about $80,000,” Lively said.

“Most of it is city-code related,” Lively said of the extra costs.

Jill Imboden, development coordinator for the nonprofit organization, agreed. She said “almost all of it” is related to complying with city codes.

For example, Imboden said, a “nice wooden fence” was going to be built around the garbage container behind the shelter, but the barrier had to be constructed out of brick to comply with city codes.

It was believed that a wooden fence would suffice, Imboden said.

“That was a chunk of change; it was big,” Imboden said.

A driveway that was going to be concrete must be asphalt because of problems with the soil, despite the results of soil samples, she said.

And, exterior stairs for the fire escape had to be enclosed because the fireproof paint wasn’t exterior paint, Lively said.

Some of the added expenses are not code-related, she said.

Lively said she decided to add windows to all the doors in the offices and to the computer lab “for liability reasons.”

“That wasn’t in the original plans,” she said.

The city gave money to the campaign, too, in the form of Housing and Urban Development funds.

“We are thankful; we are thankful for that,” Imboden said.

Lively also praised the generosity of other donors who helped make the Hope for the Homeless campaign successful enough to make the 7,300- square-foot shelter a reality.

“This community is very generous; the building itself is proof of that. It’s amazing,” Lively said.

However, in addition to needing about $80,000 to finish paying for the new shelter, the women said giving is down.

“Summers are hard for us anyway; this is probably the leanest time of the year for us,” Lively said. “People are on vacations, and people don’t think about it as much, but it doesn’t reduce people in need as far as hunger and homelessness.

“Some of our people who give month after month aren’t giving. It’s hard to tell if that’s the economy, the time of the year, but we believe it’s the capital campaign.”

Some donors apparently switched their regular giving to the campaign, Lively said.

The slowdown in giving has affected day-to-day operations, such as the food pantry.

“It’s been low,” she said.

Food boxes are given out every night, and people may get one every 30 days. A free hot meal is served every night at 6 in a cramped kitchen and dining area in the former single-family house that now serves as the shelter.

The new shelter has two food pantries, Lively pointed out.

Both walk-in areas will be named after donors, including The Village at Hendrix, which held a holiday open house as a benefit for the shelter.

“All the rooms are named, except for some bathrooms,” Imboden said.

Lively and Imboden stopped in the dining room of the new shelter, which had boxes of commercial-grade laminate flooring stacked in the middle, ready to be installed.

Imboden said she wasn’t sure if she’d like the yellow paint on the dining room walls, but it’s cheery, she said.

The Arkansas Department of Health requires the walls to be light-colored and easy to wash, Lively said.

The laundry room with two large windows made Lively smile as she toured the home. Homeless individuals are allowed to wash clothes in the facility even if they don’t live there.

The shelter, which operates now from a 100-plus-year-old Victorian home on Faulkner Street, has 21 residents as of this week, including three children.

The new shelter will be able to house 35 people and will include eight emergency beds.

Three bedrooms downstairs are handicapped-accessible, another improvement from the outdated shelter; two bedrooms are for emergencies, and each will hold four people.

Lively and Imboden emphasized that those rooms are for true emergencies — a house fire or an eviction, for examples.

The women walked into an open space, the living room.

“This is all new,” Imboden said. “We don’t even have a living room at the shelter now.”

In addition to the eight bedrooms and three bathrooms upstairs, the shelter will have a playroom, something that doesn’t exist in the current shelter.

Even though bedroom and dining-room furniture has been donated, the playroom has no furnishings.

“The playroom is still empty,” Imboden said.

Large televisions are needed in the offices to monitor the 24 security cameras inside and outside, Lively said.

Imboden said security is even more important with the addition of the emergency shelter.

“That’s a new service that’s not offered in Conway currently,” she said.

A computer lab and conference room is in the hall with the administrative offices.

The new shelter has front and back porches, “so that’s nice,” Imboden said.

Lively said pavers for the floor on the front porch are being engraved with the names of donors who give between $1,000 and $5,000.

“Of course, there are still bricks available,” she said.

As excited as the women are about the new shelter, Lively said, she is concerned about funding.

“We have a fear that with this building, people are going to think we have it made,” Lively said.

Imboden said the nonprofit organization will kick off its first giving campaign in the fall, an event to be held annually.

“We hope to have an amount of money to raise on a yearly basis for operations,” Imboden said.

The organization’s staff also hopes to have matching funds from a foundation, too, she said.

For more information or to make a donation, contact Lively or Imboden at (501) 205-0905.

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

Niche Publications Senior Writer Tammy Keith can be reached at 501-327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

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