Shelter sees deficit

Published 9:55 pm Tuesday, June 22, 2010

With one week left in the fiscal year, a local organization that helps homeless families is appealing to the community for help filling a funding shortfall.

Decreasing support from all levels of government had caused the ForKids organization, which operates Suffolk House on Finney Avenue in Suffolk, to be about $400,000 short as of the beginning of June. On Tuesday, that number was down to $150,000 thanks to last-minute contributions from local foundations and the city of Norfolk.

“We’re chipping away at it,” said ForKids spokeswoman Priscilla Monti. “We’re encouraged, but we really need the community and the cities to step up and help us fund these programs.”

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In addition to the Suffolk facility, ForKids has three buildings in Norfolk that house homeless families.

Executive Director Thaler McCormick said closing the year at a deficit would be devastating to the organization. Of the organization’s $3.3 million total budget, about $1.4 million should come from community funding each year, she said.

“If we close the year at a deficit, what’s happening is we’re stripping out ForKids’ precious cash reserves, which we have spent years trying to build,” she said. “We need to have our governmental partners step back up to the plate.”

Suffolk cut the shelter’s funding by 56 percent this year, McCormick said, and cuts also came from state and federal funding sources.

“ForKids has worked very hard in the last 18 months to turn Suffolk House around, but we have to have a meaningful partnership with the local government to be able to continue our work in Suffolk,” McCormick said.

The end of the fiscal year comes at an already-difficult time for homeless shelters. Many government grants do not begin paying out until late fall, McCormick said, and family homelessness rises in the summer because parents must either pay for childcare, which strains the family budget, or lose their jobs. In addition, hotels, which are usually the last resort for shelter for a struggling family, hike their rates during the summer.

“It’s a very challenging time for nonprofit programs,” McCormick said. “If ForKids closes our fiscal year at a deficit, we enter a very risky period.”

Though McCormick wouldn’t speculate on what would happen if the budget fell short, she said programs could be in danger.

“Next week, we’re going to look at how big the deficit is,” McCormick said. “In July … we’ll have a hard decision to make. Everybody here hopes that won’t be necessary.”

For more information about ForKids, or to donate, visit