One building, double impact
The idea: Help expand affordable housing while also creating spaces for other nonprofits.
For more than a half-century, the Community Action Partnership of Strafford County (CAPSC) helped people with low incomes meet their basic needs. Now the nonprofit is finally meeting its own.
CAPSC provides homeless and housing services, food and nutrition, child and family services, senior transportation, fuel assistance, and more. Until last fall, its services in Dover were split among three sites. It was far from ideal—for clients and staff.
Clients appeared at the wrong office or had to visit multiple offices to get what they needed. Technology and communication among staff were challenging. Simple things like getting a quick security deposit check for a landlord were stressful. A single room might serve as a food pantry, office, reception area, and staff break space.
The arrangement also limited CAPSC’s services. “You need to have space to grow programs,” says Chief Executive Officer Betsey Andrews Parker. “Every time we got a grant for something it was, ‘Where are we going to put them?’ ” The lack of space also made it difficult to connect with other providers, like health care vans.
When CAPSC looked for a permanent home where it could consolidate and expand its services, the answer was collaboration. Another nonprofit, The Housing Partnership, planned to build Bradley Commons, a downtown development containing 39 affordable apartments. Dover’s zoning laws required commercial space on the building’s first floor.
Not only could that commercial space bring CAPSC services under one roof, including its Head Start program, but there would also be room to grow. Plus, it was located on a bus route and close by the city’s retail center—an important consideration for clients and staff.
The Community Loan Fund had helped finance the Bradley Commons housing project. Now it doubled its impact by helping CAPSC buy more than 16,000 square feet of street-level space for its new home. The agency moved in last fall.
“It is so lovely to be in a building that brings people joy,” says Betsey. “Sometimes we’re (their clients’) last hope and it’s really important for them to come into a space that is welcoming, it’s professional, and it has the privacy they need to be able to tell their stories.”
This story was published in the Community Loan Fund’s 2019 annual report.