CONWAY — An open house held for the new Bethlehem House homeless shelter in Conway caused a temporary increase in donations, but funding is still needed, Executive Director Judi Lively said.
An open house and housewarming party were held Oct. 17 at the new $1.44 million facility on Parkway Avenue.
“It was wonderful,” Lively said.
“I would say, as a result of the open house, we certainly had increased giving then,” Lively said. “Giving is still below where we want or need it to be.”
The Hope for the Homeless campaign goal to build the shelter was $1.3 million; the campaign raised $1,389,883, almost $90,000 above the goal.
“We originally started with a $1.5 million goal, but we pulled it back to $1.3 [million],” Lively said Wednesday. “We felt like we could trim some of it out.”
Lively said in August that “unexpected expenses” arose, causing about an $80,000 shortfall.
Former development coordinator Jill Imboden said in August that most of the increased cost was city-code related.
“The shortfall was not all city-code related,” Lively said Wednesday. “A lot of it wasn’t.”
Because of poor soil conditions, she said, a planned asphalt driveway had to be constructed of more expensive concrete.
“It originally was going to be asphalt, but because of the deeper soil analysis, they went to concrete, and that’s because of the garbage trucks coming back,” Lively said. “That was specifically related to the quality of the soil, although they had done soil testing ahead of time.”
She said that because of city codes, a vinyl fence around the garbage container was changed to split block.
Bryan Patrick, Conway director of planning and development, said trash enclosures for all commercial construction in Conway — nonprofits, churches, schools, multifamily structures, restaurants, etc. — have to be masonry, although not necessarily brick.
“These enclosures are much more expensive than a chain-link or wooden fence around a dumpster, but much more durable,” Patrick said in an email to Conway City Council members. “They also catch more loose trash, keeping the trash in the pen and out of the community at large.”
He said the requirement for the fence to be masonry “was a known fact since the beginning of the project; therefore, I don’t understand why it was seen as a cost overrun.”
Lively said the project’s cost increased by approximately $12,000 because of that change.
“From our perspective, it was a city-code issue,” she said.
Another “pretty expensive city-code issue” was having to enclose an exit stairwell that originally was to be on the outside of the building, Lively said.
Enclosing the stairwell added $14,000 to the project, she said.
The architect for the project, Robert Bowen of Burrough-Brasuell Corp. in Van Buren, said the driveway and fence in the garbage area weren’t big extra expenses.
However, “the issue with this building is it had to be classified as an institutional occupancy; it needed to have sprinklers and lots of exit planning,” he said.
“The original thought was they could build it as a big house, but because of the number of occupants they wanted to have sleep in there at night, it moved it to an institutional, I-1, occupancy,” Bowen said.
“Once we got into the institutional occupancy, I knew that was going to make it somewhat more difficult,” he said.
The 7,200-square-foot, two-story facility has room to house 35 people and includes two emergency bedrooms.
Bowen said the zoning requirement made the project more expensive.
“The stair outside needed to have a one-hour fire-resistant rating, and that was difficult to do for an exterior stair,” he said. No suitable paint could be found, so it was enclosed, he said.
Lively said many changes were made that increased the cost after the shelter changed from being considered a home to an institutional building.
Lynn Hicks, building official for the city, said reviews are done for code compliance.
It’s not unusual, Hicks said, to outline several changes needed in a project.
“I write all that up, and then it’s a matter of the architect, and then the contractor, making sure it’s addressed out in the field,” he said.
Lively said the city gave $143,000 to the project in the form of a Community Development Block Grant.
“That’s important, too,” she said. “The city’s been good to us.”
Aimee Prince, president of the shelter’s board of directors, said the board wants to be good stewards of everyone’s money.
“We are very grateful to the city and what they’ve done, and what all they do,” Prince said.
Lively said the project has been worth it, and the residents enjoy it.
“It’s a beautiful place,” Lively said. “The kids are so happy.”
“It’s like they’re home,” Prince said.
Lively said the first time the female residents walked into the new shelter, “they were jumping up and down squealing, with tears.”
The former shelter was a too-small, 100-plus-year-old Victorian home that was in dire need of repairs, officials said.
Prince said residents are cooking often in the new shelter, whereas in the old shelter’s cramped kitchen, they rarely did. Children are using the playroom, too.
“They’re using every inch of this place,” Prince said. “That’s fantastic.”
Two upcoming fundraisers are planned for the shelter.
Bethlehem House will sponsor Empty Bowls from 11 a. m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 10 at OneChurch in downtown Conway, 1058 Front St. The cost is $10 for homemade soup, bread and a dessert.
“A small marketplace with a few vendors will be there, too,” Lively said.
The Village at Hendrix will hold its Tour of Homes as a fundraiser for Bethlehem House for the second year. The tour is set for Dec. 7-8, she said.
Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or firstname.lastname@example.org.