By Staff Reports
Beverly, Mass. ” Beverly’s River House Shelter, a mainstay for homeless adults, has served the neediest members of the North Shore community for close to a decade.
Recently, the grassroots, donor-supported shelter, which has kept its doors open with the support of private donations, grants, community events like the Polar Plunge and a minimal amount of public funding, has come to a pivotal time in its history ” resources are stretched and program enhancement is critical if River House is to remain effective in working with its homeless clients.
We have worked hard to build the needed resources to make sure the River House can go on but it has been a struggle, especially in recent years, explains Linda L. Anderson Mercier, River House Board president.
In response to these critical concerns, the River House Board of Directors is taking decisive action.
As of May 1, Harborlight Community Partners (HCP), a regional North Shore nonprofit affordable housing organization, will begin to work with the River House Board of Directors and staff to address a number of the issues and build additional funding opportunities. This will include improving the appearance of the facility, enhancing a focus on long-term community housing, training and employment options for residents.
Most importantly, HCP and the River House Board of Directors will be working to secure multiple streams of fiscal support such that River House can maintain a balanced operating budget. While Harborlight Community Partners will buoy this work, the River House will remain an independent organization with its own Board of Directors. Toward that end, River House is interested in securing new members to join in this agency restructuring effort.
We are honored to be working with the community and the River House board to help this program rebuild for the future, says Carol Suleski, the Harborlight Community Partners president.
To execute these changes in the most efficient manner, the emergency shelter portion of River House will temporarily close as of April 30. Every effort will be made to find alternative arrangements for the current shelter residents in the wider Boston area. The permanent single room housing will continue with Program Director Kate Benashki staying on to operate it.
North Shore Community Action Programs (NSCAP), which has provided the fiscal guidance and management assistance for River House, will transition out of its role on April 30.
NSCAP has been invaluable in building River House, including helping to secure the initial capital to create the River House facility. We have been delighted to support the development and growth of River House, says NSCAP Executive Director, Beth Hogan.
The transition out of this role will make room for Harborlight Community Partners to step in to that management position. River House is slated to reopen in time for this coming winter, with a proposed date of Oct. 15. Harborlight Community Partners will undertake the significant tasks needed to breathe new life into River House. These include negotiating public contracts, making building repairs and securing philanthropic gifts from the North Shore community.
Toward that effort, a major gift has been granted by an anonymous donor in the form of a $75,000 challenge grant.
This is the first stone in the foundation of what will be the long term success of River House, says Andrew DeFranza, executive director for Harborlight Community Partners.
River House will need to match that grant with $75,000 in additional gifts from the community and will need to do so to achieve the goal of the shelter reopening in October.
The River House Shelter exists to assist homeless people regain their independence. River House provides emergency shelter and social services to 36 men per night, 365 days a year, assisting nearly 200 adults annually. River House also provides permanent, single room housing with support services for 5 adults. The shelter and housing residents hail from many North Shore communities.
River House was the culmination of a vision of many in Beverly to provide a shelter for those who were homeless and to work with each guest to help find employment, health care and a home, says one of the River House founders Stella Mae Seamans.
If you are interested in joining this grassroots effort, or would like to make a donation to help River House reach its goal, visit theriverhouseshelter.org. Donations can also be sent to River House, PO Box 3226, Beverly, MA 01915.