KEITH WHITCOMB JR.
BENNINGTON -- Having been $33,717 in debt earlier this year and thinking it might not be able to carry on, the Bennington Coalition for the Homeless said it is in much better shape than it was thanks to donations of know-how and funds.
Mary Gerisch, secretary of the coalition Board of Directors, said Thursday that between July 2012 and March 2013 the group's deficit ended up being the $33,717. She said it would have been much worse had it not been for $49,000 donated from individuals, church groups, fraternal organizations, and other non-profits.
For this fiscal year the coalition is projected to be in the red by about $55,000, however that is not accounting for grant money it expects to receive. Gerisch said grant payments come in throughout the year and it is not unusual for the coalition or groups like it to run a deficit.
In February the coalition fired its Executive Director Kendy Skidmore then told the Select Board that the financial information it submitted to the town to be on the ballot for Town Meeting in March was not accurate. Voters approved giving $7,500 to the coalition all the same and it plans to give the board updated and accurate information soon.
Coalition President Stacy New said Wednesday she expects the information will be given to the board sooner than initially planned, perhaps in early May at the latest.
Gerisch said the coalition received a grant from the state to have an audit done by Aires Accountants. She said the company looked at the collation's profits and losses for the past two years but did not do a forensic accounting which would have been prohibitively expensive. Aires helped the coalition develop a budget for this year and the next and recommended the group have third party accountants manage its books.
She said the coalition also depends on federal and state grants. It gets about $130,000 in funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and $89,000 from the Vermont Department of Corrections. Before these grants could be secured, Gerisch said the coalition had to prove it was financially stable which it did by working out arrangements with long-term creditors who have forgiven some debts and put off collecting others.
She said the group also got letters of support from other local non-profits. She said the coalition is the main source of emergency housing services in Bennington County and has been having to turn people away because the need often outstrips its capacity.
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr