With the high cost of rental space and the increasing number of bodies to feed, cloth and shelter, Good Shepherd Alliance executive director Lyle Werner said it was time to buy a space of its own.
The nonprofit organization currently rents out a space for its headquarters in Leesburg and its thrift store in Sterling. But the cost of rental property in the county is weighing on the group’s pockets and the Cape-Cod style house in Leesburg is far too small for its offices and day center.
"With the increasing homeless population, the Good Shepherd Alliance needs to grow and position itself for the future," Werner said.
Last month, the Good Shepherd Alliance secured a 7,000-square-foot building on 1.2 acres of land on Ashburn Road. The new space, dubbed the Center of Hope, will serve as its headquarters. In addition to housing its executive offices, the new center will also house a day center and a thrift store.
Mark Gunderman, vice chairman of the Good Shepherd Alliance’s executive board, said the Center of Hope is a first for the organization because it has rented property for years.
Mary Fittro, manager of the Good Shepherd Alliance Thrift Store in Sterling, said the organization can barely afford the increase in rent over the past few months.
"We can’t pack a whole lot more into this store in order to bring proceeds up and pay the rent," Fittro said.
The owners of the space, Fittro said, continue to increase the rent, due to the increase in property value of the prime location.
"I guess it’s not their fault," she said. "It’s happening all over of Loudoun. It’s happening to all of us nonprofits. We just can’t afford it."
The organization was forced to move out of its former space, next to Shoppers Food Warehouse off of Route 7 in Sterling, in 1999. Fittro packed up the store and relocated to the space in Regal Center. She has been there for seven years.
WITH THE increase in rental fees, Werner said the monthly mortgage of the Center of Hope would cost less than the price of the headquarters and thrift store spaces.
"Plus, we’re building up our assets," she said.
The Toll Brothers, in conjunction with a volunteer architect and civil engineer, and HomeAid, a national nonprofit provider of housing to homeless, will rebuild the inside of the center to accommodate its new features.
Werner plans to open the new space before the end of the year.
"Hopefully, we can open before Thanksgiving," she said, "depending on delays."
One of the best features of the Center of Hope, Werner said, is the day center, which provides people who are homeless a space to wash clothes, brush their teeth and apply for jobs.
The day center also provides mailboxes to the homeless population.
"Imagine applying for a job without a mailing address," Werner said. "Hopefully will be able to accommodate everyone’s individual needs, in one space."