Exodus Homes Fights To Survive

Exodus Homes, a faith Based United Way agency that provides supportive housing for recovering people returning to the community from treatment centers and prison, held a press conference today to tell the community that it is fighting to survive the recession.
Kevin McIntosh, chairman of the Exodus board, said today that they have lost $346,000 in revenue since 2008, and needs the community’s support to continue its work. Rev. Susan Smith, assistant executive director of the organization reported that the organization is experiencing a severe cash flow problem, and is months behind  in their bills and mortgages. “In the short term, we need to raise at least $75,000 to survive” she said, appealing to the community for donations.
Major cutbacks have already taken place, loans and mortgages are being deferred and restructured, and Exodus is canceling its annual Christmas Lights Festival and Food Crawl this year. “Sadly, the lights will be out at Exodus this Christmas,” McIntosh said.
The agency was founded in 1998 by Rev. Reggie Longcrier, and was built on an employment model. Its  primary funding has been from the residents who pay fees from wages they earn working jobs Exodus helped them obtain.  Since 2008, the loss of jobs and prolonged high unemployment in the area has made employing their residents almost impossible. Without jobs, they cannot pay their program fees. Exodus has also suffered significant funding cuts from other local, county, and state sources due to the effect the recession has had on them.
For the past 12 years Exodus has been a boon to the community. “Since 1998 we have helped almost 2,000 men and women become drug-free, productive, law abiding, tax-paying citizens” said Rev. Longcrier. “We have reunited families, and helped good people get jobs.” According to the Hickory Police Department, Exodus Homes has reduced crime significantly in areas where its program is located – especially in the Ridgeview neighborhood. Around the organization’s central campus, drug related calls to police have been reduced by 98%, and by 35 % in the neighborhood overall.  
Through Grants and other local, state, and national funding, rev. Longcrier estimates Exodus has brought over a million dollars into the community. The program has won many awards for excellence, and was a key part of the Hickory All-America City team that won that honor in 2007. Later that year staff was invited to speak at the White House because if the program’s effectiveness in stabilizing the community around it. In addition to supportive housing, the agency provides mentoring programs for at-risk youth, walk-in crisis services, after care, and outreach to the community, treatment centers and prisons.
With jobs disappearing from the area, Exodus took action. According to Rev. Smith, “One solution was to create jobs for our residents.  In 2007 we created  in our own enterprises called Exodus Works providing fully insured and affordable landscaping, moving, cleaning, odd jobs, and car detailing.  More recently we opened a thrift store on First Ave. SW to sell surplus donations. Despite the recession, our businesses have grown steadily and will surpass $100,000 in sales by the end of 2010.” Currently 20-25 Exodus Homes residents work in these enterprises  part time as needed.  New revenue from the thrift store and continued growth in Exodus Works will help in days to come.   
They have been struggling for some time. In early 2009, the agency laid off four people, cut salaries, eliminated health benefits, and closed two rental locations. More cutbacks and downsizing are needed, however. As a result, Exodus will close and sell two properties; a 16 bed men’s apartment building in the Green Park neighborhood and a five bed women’s home in the Kenworth neighborhood. They are not taking any new residents while they redesign the program.   In October, the executive staff began serving as volunteers to keep the doors open. They still have 63 beds and six housing locations. The plan is to continue operating primarily from the Ridgeview campus area where they have five facilities on 8th Ave. Dr. SW.  
Banks and other lenders involved with their six housing properties are working with Exodus to defer and restructure their loans, Rev. Smith reported. She said the board is working closely with their staff, bringing in a business consultant to help downsize and streamline the finances of the operation. “The Christmas lights may be out at Exodus this year,” she said, “but we will be back.” 
They need the community’s financial support to help us get from where they are to where they need to be. In the short term, they need to raise at least $75,000 to meet their current obligations and survive. Mitchell Gold and Bob Williams, Inc. have donated $5,000 and challenge other business to help them keep the doors open . Holy Trinity Lutheran Church gave $5,000 and the Episcopal Church of the Ascension has given $3,000.  They challenge other  churches to help “so homeless recovering people don’t have to sleep under bridges or go back to jail.” An anonymous donor has given $10,000
and challenges other individuals to contribute as well. Their annual Honor Card campaign kick-off will be held this evening at the  Exodus Church fellowship hall with Greensboro artist William Mangum who created the program to raise funds for homeless programs all over N.C.  They are hoping people will be generous in the end of year giving season. 
Kevin McIntosh is confident they will make it through the storm, saying “I have worked with Exodus for fourteen years and know from experience the staff can adapt and do whatever is necessary to survive. They’ve seen tough times before.  They have tremendous faith in God, and give 200% every day. They are not quitters, and they need your help.”  Rev. Longcrier said, “We need to work as if everything depends on us, and pray as if everything depends on God. Our problems are big, but our God is bigger.”