Exodus Homes Expands Social Enterprise to Survive

Exodus Homes, a faith based United Way agency providing 82 beds of supportive housing to homeless recovering people returning to the community from treatment centers and prison is struggling to survive. They have lost $233,000 in revenue since 2008 as a result of the high unemployment of its residents who pay fees that are the primary source of funding for the program. Budget cuts from major funders such as the United Way, Catawba County ABC Board, and Mental Health have also had a major impact.
Since the recession began, they have laid off four people, cut all salaries 20%, eliminated health benefits, and closed two rental locations while maintaining the same services for the residents of the program. Business Manager Ann Dickson juggles the bills the best she can. “I know the utility and insurance cut-off dates by heart. Somehow we have gotten by, but many bills are months behind” she said.  

The challenges of the last two years have made them even more determined to provide a way out of addiction and incarceration for homeless people who are ready to change, and learn a new way to live. “We could not wait for the government or the economy to save us because we were going down” said the Rev. Reggie Longcrier, Exodus executive director.  “We had to create our own jobs, and generate our own revenue by expanding our social enterprise Exodus Works with a one year grant from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation for a Business Developer to increase sales.”    

The numbers tell the good news that despite the recession, their plan is working. Annual sales for their fully insured moving, landscaping, cleaning, painting, and general labor services have increased 495% since 2007 – from $21,000 in 2007 to a projected $109,000 for 2010. Sales for the first two quarters of 2010 rose 176% over the first two quarters of 2009 – from $17,000 to $47,000. When Exodus Homes residents receive their Exodus Works paychecks, they are able to pay their program fees to the supportive housing program.

Approximately 40% of the Exodus Works wages paid to Exodus Homes residents come back to the agency. They try to employee as many residents as possible as contract laborers, and spread the work around. Most pay checks are small.  The social enterprise employs two full time supervisors from the community, and so far in 2010 approximately $9,000 has been paid back into Exodus Homes as resident fees. The income residents are allowed to keep helps them pay their child support, probation fees, buy medication, food, and other personal items. The social enterprise is not yet making a profit on its own. However, considering the benefit of job creation, the funds that have come back into the agency as program fees, and the disposable income for residents – it has been worth it.                   

Exodus Homes envisions a day when revenue generated by Exodus Works will be a primary source of funding for the agency, but they aren’t there yet. They recently landed a contract with a major apartment complex for landscaping, and business continues to increase.  They do not have funds for advertsing, so marketing has been limited. Many people are surprised to learn about the variety and affordability of their services. Hickory Mayor Rudy Wright, and Catawba County Chamber of Commerce CEO Danny Hearn are regular customers. The program provides references upon request. 

Exodus Works is gearing up for the fall with specials on leaf removal, and gutter cleaning. “We need more people to hire Exodus Works to meet their needs. Our people want to work, and we must be more self sufficient to survive” said the Rev. Susan Smith, assistant executive director of the agency. “We’re not asking for a hand-out. We just need a hand in building the bridge that will insure our future by taking us from where we are to where we need to be” she said.

For more information, call Exodus Works at 828-324-2390.