Exodus Homes Featured in Charlotte Observer

Exodus Homes was featured in The Charlotte Observer in the article “Recovery agency fights through recession” (December 27, 2010).  The article profiles several of the Exodus Homes residents, and discusses the challenges we face at this time.

To read the full article online and view the photos/videos that accompany it, please click this link.

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.”

2010 Exodus Homes Honor Card Kick-off Dinner with Artist William Mangum

Monday November 22, 2010, 6:00pm
Exodus Missionary Outreach Church (www.exodusoutreachchurch.org for directions)
1763 Highland Ave. NE, Hickory, NC 28601

Please RSVP to susansmith@charter.net or 828-962-8196
Click this link to receive an order form for the 2010 Honor Card!

Inspired by a chance meeting between Greensboro artist William Mangum and a homeless man, the Honor Card program has raised more than $3 million for homelessness in North Carolina since the annual holiday program began 22 years ago. The 2010 Holiday Honor Card features the painting “Everybody Needs Somebody” by Mangum, depicting a solitude figure befriended by a caring soul. The Honor Card is produced at no cost to Exodus Homes by Wachovia Bank and William Mangum. Food for the dinner will be donated by Olive Garden, Texas Roadhouse, Jason’s Deli, and Tasteful Beans Coffeehouse. 
Revenue from the sale of Honor Cards is urgently needed because Exodus Homes’ operating budget has lost over $233,000 since 2008 due to high unemployment of our residents plus budget cuts from United Way, Mental Health, Catawba County ABC Board, and other funders. We are struggling to survive. Honor Cards are available for a minimum donation of $5 per card each holiday season with 100% of the proceeds going to provide services for homeless people. The Honor Card says a gift has been given to Exodus Homes in honor of the recipient, and has information about the program inside. It makes a beautiful gift, and many people use them as Christmas cards.  
This year’s honor card inspiration is a heartfelt true story of an individual reaching out to a North Carolina homeless vet in spring 2010. As a result of this friendship, both have benefited much and the vet now has an automobile detailing business and a roof over this head.
On Monday November 22. 2010 we are holding a 2010 Honor Card kick-off dinner with special guest William Mangum who will share his passion for this work and tell the true story of this year’s card.  We are inviting local churches, and business to send a representative to learn more about being an Honor Card coordinator for your organization. Individuals are also encouraged to attend! Honor Card coordinators are asked to take at least 25 cards and share with others how much a $5.00 or more donation will do to help Exodus Homes continue serving homeless recovering people. After the holidays are over, coordinators return the money raised and any unsold cards to Exodus Homes. 
This will be an inspirational evening to learn more about a gift that keeps on giving.  Please RSVP to susansmith@charter.net or 828-962-8196 and let us know who your representative will be. You are welcome to send more than one person!

Exodus Works Thrift Store Needs Donations!

510 1st Ave. SW, Hickory, NC 28602

The Exodus Works Thrift Store is now open and needs your help. The store helps provide vocational training for the residents of  Exodus Homes, a United Way agency that provides faith – based supportive housing for homeless recovering people. Revenue from the  Thrift Store is urgently needed because Exodus Homes’ operating budget  has lost over $233,000 since 2008 due to high unemployment of our residents plus budget cuts from United Way, Mental Health, Catawba County ABC Board, and other funders. Exodus Works is the social enterprise of Exodus Homes and creates jobs for our residents in landscaping, moving, odd jobs, and car detailing services. It is  doing well,  but not growing fast enough to support the housing program which is struggling to survive. The Thrift Store is a recent addition and donations of all kinds are needed.
We need new and gently used clothing, furniture, household items, appliances, and electronics.  Tax deductible donations can be brought to the warehouse Monday – Saturday from 9:00am to 5:00pm. Donations scan be picked up  on Mondays and Saturdays by calling  Jerry Ratliff at 828-781-3222.
We also need customers! Our store is a pleasant place to shop for great bargains, and we have bi-lingual staff for Latino people. Please help us spread the word! For more information about items for sale in the store, call Thrift Store Floor Manager Johanna Leitch at 828-962-8199.  For more information about Exodus Homes contact Rev. Susan Smith at 828-962-8196, susansmith@charter.net, or go to www.exodushomes.org.

Exodus Works Thrift Store Now Open!

Hickory City Ward 4 Alderman Hank Guess cuts the ribbon for the grand opening of the Exodus Works Thrift Store at 510 1st Ave. SW in Hickory on October 28, 2010. Those attending the event included Hickory Mayor Rudy Wright, Exodus Homes Board president Kevin McIntosh, other board members, staff, Exodus Homes residents, and people from the community. The store offers new and gently used clothes, furniture, appliances, household items, and electronics. Store hours are Monday – Friday 9:00am – 5:00pm, Saturday 8:00am – 4:00pm. For more information about items for sale in the store, please call Johanna Leith, Exodus Works Thrift Store Floor Manager at 828-962-8199.  To donate items for the store, please call Jerry Ratliff at 828-781-3222.      

Watch the video below to take a quick tour of the Thrift Store (taken during the grand opening event):

Exodus Works Thrift Store Grand Opening and Ribbon Cutting

Thursday October 28, 2010  •  12:00pm  •  510 1st Ave. SW  •  Hickory, NC 28602

Exodus Homes, a faith-based United Way agency providing 82 beds of supportive housing for homeless recovering people, is about to celebrate another dream come true.  In order to survive the recession, they have expanded their social enterprise, Exodus Works, to create jobs  for residents of the program in fully insured landscaping, moving, cleaning, odd jobs, general labor and mobile car detailing.  As part of  the plan to create more jobs and sell surplus donated items, they are opening a new thrift store at 510 1st Ave SW in Hickory.   A Grand Opening ceremony and ribbon cutting will be held at noon on Thursday October 28, 2010 followed by light refreshments and tours. Rev. Reggie Longcrier, Exodus Homes executive director is excited about this new venture saying, “A thrift store has been part of the vision for many years and it is right on time. We are struggling to survive, and selling surplus donated items will help us make it to a better day.”

The  new thrift store will also house an office for Exodus Works, so that supervisors of the social enterprise can have more space to  work. ExodusWorks currently has three full time supervisors, 25 part time employees, and is the biggest employer of Exodus Homes residents.  The two story 9,000 sq. ft. facility also serves as a warehouse. Donated items such as furniture, clothing, and household goods not used in any of the 10 program locations of Exodus Homes will be rotated  through the store for sale.  Photographs of items in the warehouse will be available for customers to review if they don’t see what they need in the store.

Exodus Homes residents have been working for weeks to clean and sort items for sale in the store.  The United Church of Christ Linking In New Creative (LINC) ministry team representing four local churches worked to improve the outside of the store by replacing rotten wood, painting, and removing a large metal pole that had been used in the past to hold a sign.  Dave Leonetti, City of Hickory Senior Planner, and Sally Fox, Hickory City Council representative helped Exodus Homes locate the new warehouse after their previous warehouse downtown had been condemned last spring.

Ward 4 Hickory City Council representative Hank Guess will be on hand to cut the ribbon along with other city officials and Exodus Homes’ board members.  The public is invited to attend. Exodus Homes needs donations of furniture, clothes, and household items in good condition for the  82 residents of the program, and the thrift store. Donated items can be picked up if necessary by calling Exodus Homes Director of Operations Jerry Ratliff at 828-781-3222.

For more information about the thrift store grand opening, or to donate items, contact Rev. Susan Smith 828-962-8196. For more information about Exodus Homes or Exodus Works, go to www.exodushomes.org   


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´╗┐.

Exodus Homes Gets Certified Peer Support Specialists

Exodus Homes, a faith-based United Way agency that provides 82 beds of faith based supportive housing to homeless recovering people returning to the community from treatment centers and prisons now has two certified Peer Support Specialists in its staff team. The Rev. Reggie Longcrier, Executive Director of the agency, and James Moore, Program Director, recently completed 120 hours of training at the Smoky Mountain Center in Lenoir to earn the new credential that is changing the way mental health services are provided. The certification was granted by the NC Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, and Substance Abuse Services.
The role of a Peer Support Specialist (PSS) is to use personal experience with recovery from mental illness and substance abuse to help others who are struggling with the same issues. PSS have life experience and expertise in recovery that professional training cannot replicate. PSS are employed in a variety of settings including Assertive Community Treatment Teams, Community Support Teams, Recovery Education Centers, and advocacy roles. 
Exodus Homes is a model peer-led recovery supportive housing program which is primarily funded and operated by the residents themselves. The world of substance abuse treatment has evolved to recognize the expertise of successful recovering people, and their value in helping those who still struggle with addiction. This has been working for over 70 years in the 12 step movement. Exodus Homes was founded in 1998 on the premise that successful recovering people are experts in mentoring their peers who are trying to learn a new way to live. 
Longcrier began his recovery from addiction over 25 years ago, and James Moore has been a resident of Exodus Homes for four years. Both plan to use what they learned to improve the Exodus Homes program, and demonstrate the commitment to ongoing training for its staff. As a result of this training, a new support group for residents with over one year in recovery was added to the program at Exodus.
Ongoing training is very important to the organization. Six members of the staff team recently completed a 16 hour Mental Health First Aide training which helped them with assessment and referral in crisis situations.”We are experts in recovery, and we will continue to bring the very best information for improving services into our program, ” said Longcrier.
For more information about Exodus Homes, go to www.exodushomes.org. For more information about Peer Support Specialist trainings, contact Jamies Sales, adult Mental Health/CIT Coordinator at 828-323-8053 or JSales@MentalHealthPartners.org 



Invitation to 13th Choir Anniversary

Please join us for a hand clapping, foot stomping, get-up-out-of-your-seat good time! 
Exodus Missionary Outreach Church Gospel Choir — 13th Annual Choir Anniversary
Saturday August 21, 2010, 6:00pm
Exodus Missionary Outreach Church www.exodusoutreachchurch.org
1763 Highland Ave. NE, Hickory 28601
Free, and all are invited!
Thank you!

Exodus Homes’ Urgent Need For Donated Vehicles!

Exodus Homes’ Director of Operations Jerry Ratliff is seen with a donated 1990 Pathfinder that died this week of a bad transmission. The public is encouraged to donate cars, pick-up trucks, box trucks, and vans to the organization. The agency’s assistant executive director the Rev. Susan Smith says donating a vehicle to Exodus is more beneficial as a tax deduction than to other organizations. “The IRS regulations regarding donating vehicles changed several years ago, but donors can get the full value of the car as a tax deduction with us because we use the car in our organization rather than sell it to raise money.”Exodus Homes is a faith-based United Way agency that provides 82 beds of supportive housing for homeless recovering people returning to the community from treatment centers and prison with 10 program locations in Hickory. Transportation is provided seven days a week by volunteer resident drivers who take people back and forth to work, to look for a job, to recovery support groups, to medical appointments, and other places such as court, social services, the health department, and mental health. Residents are encouraged to use the bus, walk, or ride a bike whenever possible, but transportation in vehicles is still required on a daily basis. 
The organization uses donated cars in their transportation service, and has lost several lately to old age with worn out transmissions or blown engines. They are down to one car that can be used for general transportation purposes, and this is causing an overuse of their two full size passenger vans for groups of 5 or less. This is increasing their gasoline expense, and causing extreme difficulty in getting all 82 people where they need to go on time. Even when vans are needed in transporting all 82 residents at once to meetings or church, having only two vans requires multiple trips and is very time consuming.                 
Exodus Homes’ social enterprise Exodus Works also needs more pick-up trucks and box trucks to use in their moving, landscaping, and cleaning services that employ their residents. Exodus Works has experienced steady growth this year with the addition of a full time Business Developer that was funded by a one year grant from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation. The growth of their businesses is slowed by the need for more vehicles to accept bigger jobs, and multiple jobs on the same day.  
Jerry Ratliff, Exodus Homes’ Director of Operation says the need for more donated vehicles, especially cars, is urgent. “We are doing all we can to keep our residents employed in the community and in our own businesses. Without transportation, the whole process is hindered, and we lose revenue to operate the program.”
The public is encouraged to donate cars, pick-up trucks, box trucks, and vans to the organization. The agency’s assistant executive director the Rev. Susan Smith says  donating a vehicle to Exodus is more beneficial as a tax deduction than to other organizations. “The IRS regulations regarding donating vehicles changed several years ago, but donors can get the full value of the car as a tax deduction with us because we use the car in our organization rather than sell it to raise money.”    
To donate a vehicle to Exodus Homes, please contact the Rev. Susan Smith at 828-962-8196 or susansmith@charter.net.