A local nonprofit that saw its workload sharply increase following the 2016 floods will likely have to reduce the number of housing repair and neighborhood stabilization projects it can do in Baton Rouge next year due to a nearly $300,000 shortfall in funding.
Chris Andrews, executive director of Rebuilding Together Baton Rouge, says the decrease in funding could force the grassroots organization to try to procure federal grants rather than donations from the private sector, but such a shift would likely go forward without him as the head of its small administrative team.
"We are nimble because we don't have to tie ourselves to all the regulations and mandates that come with federal funds," Andrews said Monday in a talk to the Baton Rouge Press Club. "Because we're so thin in administration … we don't have the depth you need to access" federal funds.
And administering those federal grants would likely increase the workload, something Andrews, who has led the organization for seven years, said he wouldn't want to take on.
Rebuilding Together Baton Rouge is an affiliate of the nationwide Rebuilding Together organization. The chapter relies heavily on funding from businesses and private donors to address blight and homes in need of repair.
In Baton Rouge, the $300,000 benchmark would allow the organization, whose mission is to aid older, veteran and disabled homeowners, to maintain the level of work it has been doing since the 2016 floods swamped so many buildings in the region.
Since the floods, Rebuilding Together Baton Rouge has completed 364 home projects — 67 of which were complete rebuilds of flooded homes.
Volunteers from various groups, both locally and nationwide, do most of the work in the field.
There are more than 600 requests for home repairs the organization has received but hasn't started work on yet, Andrews said.
According to 2018-19 financial information Andrews presented Monday, Rebuilding Together Baton Rouge spent approximately $560,000, about $85,000 of which went to administrative costs and the remaining allocated toward program work.
As of June 30 this year, the organization raised over $430,000; that's $240,977 shy of what they had in the bank last year around the same time, he said.
"If we don't get to that level, we'll continue doing the work we've been doing, but won't be able to do as much," he said.
A majority of the work has been concentrated in the north Baton Rouge area. Andrews cited revitalization of homes along entire streets in the Glen Oaks area as the type of community outreach needed to address the cycle of poverty.
"We try to work on transformation of entire areas so that what we do has a lasting impact. We bring back neighborhoods," he said.
If he can't pull in the funds the organization is hoping for, Andrews said, they might partner with the city-parish's housing authority, Build Baton Rouge, to gain access to federal grant funding in an arrangement that would allow Rebuilding Together Baton Rouge to continue its work without having to deal with the red tape that goes along with using Community Development Block Grant funding.
He said the organization hopes to create a new revenue stream through operating a second-hand furniture store.
"Funding is a continuing struggle for us," he said.