Monday, December 27, 2010

The Warehouse: Emblematic of Loaves & Fishes' follies

Loaves & Fishes' new warehouse, pictured last month while in the middle of being constructed.
A new warehouse is under construction at the Loaves & Fishes Mall of services 'for the homeless and otherwise poor' that costs an astonishing $1.7 million.

The new warehouse will replace rented warehouse services across the street from the Loaves & Fishes Administration building, that was costing the homeless-services nonprofit $5,000/mo. That rented space also included space for Loaves & Fishes’ library; and Genesis, a homeless counseling service staffed by a pair of social workers.

The library will move to space at the Delany Center, a building L&F owns at 12th & Ahern, and Genesis will be moved into new space in or adjacent to the new warehouse.

An apothegm this year by L&F's Safe Ground has been "House Keys Not Handcuffs." 
While the new warehouse will be spiffy, with amenities not available in the rented space, it is hard to see how the new arrangement makes economic sense for the charity, nor how the loss of rental income would be beneficial to Moe Mohanna, the landlord of the old warehouse. $1.7 million would pay for the rent of the old warehouse and space for Genesis and the library for over 28 years — which is multiple times longer than the ten-year time-frame when homeless people are supposedly going to disappear as the undercaste, trading in their raggedy clothes, tent and sleeping bags for “house keys.”

Surely the enmity that L&F CEO Libby Fernandez and Moe Mohanna have for one another1 should have been overcome by seeking arbitration on the rent charges such that the best, most-equitable arrangement could have been found, benefiting both the charity and Mohanna and, all-importantly, homeless people [Remember them?].  It also would have shown proper respect to donors to Loaves & Fishes who deny themselves when giving money intended to help the poor, in acts that are compassionate or meet Scriptural demands.

Graphic from Charity Navi­gator website shows degree to which Loaves & Fishes fails to spend dona­tions and interest reve­nue on home­less services.  Green bar repre­sents "primary revenue" while blue bar repre­sents "program expenses" for each calen­dar year.
By constructing a new building, Loaves & Fishes adds to its empire — even as claims are made that it is contributing toward putting itself out of business with implementation of policies that take a new tact at restoring homeless people’s lives. [See the Sacramento Ten Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness 2007-2017.]

Loaves & Fishes is a very curious organization: While the economy was in the tank, it raised money from suffering Sacramento citizens, while bulking up on its asset base and denying services to homeless and otherwise impoverished Sacramentans. [See bar graph.]

But, this happens.  Like any self-involved bureaucracy [and L&F is perhaps the ultimate self-involved bureaucracy], the "mission" of 'growth and defending itself' fully supplants any wholesome justification for existence. And Loaves & Fishes long long ago forgot its original mission — to help the homeless — which it trots out only when it's in donations-grab mode.

A recent article in Fast Company magazine, "Why Charities Should Have an Expiration Date" makes the case that for-profit companies come and go — they don't live forever … like vampires.  Whereas not-for-profit organizations just attach themselves to a new mission when what they are doing turns sour, for one reason or other.  Nonprofits, thus, are created on the "vampire principle": suck blood for the purpose of sucking yet more blood out of people so that it can go on to suck more blood and continue to exist to suck more blood.

It's a bloody business.

The article concludes thus [emphases, mine]:
The broader principle here is that companies and organizations don't exist simply to exist. A not-for-profit should ideally be not-for-perpetuity. [They] should not be donor-funded jobs programs. People give not because they believe in [charities as places with] employable human beings but because they believe in what nonprofits do. Once [the nonprofit's mission is accomplished, its employees] should wear a termination notice as a badge of honor.

In other words, it's time we all invested in wooden stakes.
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1 When Mohanna created a woman's shelter in space adjacent to, and in the same building, where warehouse, library and Genesis space was being rented to Loaves & Fishes, this was done without consultation with Libby Fernandez. When the shelter was 'revealed' to some in the press, Fernandez was fully left out. That shelter is not now being utilized, to my knowledge. Loaves & Fishes, which has a stated mission to shelter people [the subheading at its webspace is "feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless"] has failed to add any shelter space during the economic downturn. Instead, while it 'bulks up' its assets in the form of property, Libby Fernandez pumps her fists in the air demanding money from others for sheltering purposes. O, the hypocrisy!

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