Client Location: Portland, ME
CDFI: The Genesis Community Loan Fund
CDFI Service Area: Maine
Financing and technical assistance, with support from the Finance Justice Fund.
Amistad is a nonprofit organization launched in 1982 in Portland, Maine, to serve people experiencing homelessness, hunger, substance use and behavioral health challenges, and disproportionate barriers to treatment and care.
As a relatively small nonprofit, Amistad grew rapidly over recent years to meet the demands of increased requests for service. During the height of the pandemic, staff continued regular programming, but also initiated more decentralized outreach, “to be there for people, who were literally in the streets,” according to Executive Director Brian Townsend.
It’s laudable that Amistad grew at a time of great challenge and uncertainty locally and worldwide. But the slow timing of revenue due from billing for reimbursement created a cash flow crunch and revealed challenges for its business operating model. Enter the Genesis Community Loan Fund (Genesis).
Genesis provided an $85,000 working capital loan that allowed Amistad to continue focusing on their service delivery while making improvements to their billing model. Genesis also connected Amistad with a recommended consultant to advise on improving the organization’s billing strategy. Amistad Executive Director Brian Townsend recently reported the consultant has been “fantastic” in advising the organization on strategies to forecast cash flow. He said, “It’s a huge benefit to have that help in our evolution into a larger agency. We will pay the loan back to Genesis in a timely way, in full, and we see nothing in the future that will prevent us from building our budget and accumulating a nest egg.”
What felt like the worst operational crisis Brian had faced in six years on the job turned out to be a turning point for the organization’s growth and development. “Our loan and support from the Genesis Fund accomplished everything we needed it to—and much more,” said Brian.
Genesis was able to act more quickly and flexibly than a traditional financial institution and, critically, could offer a loan that mainstream institutions would not. Genesis has a deep understanding of a nonprofit business model dependent on reimbursement, and are familiar with Amistad’s funding sources.
Amistad staff knew about the Genesis Fund through our work with a multifaceted development collaborative that renovated a historic former Catholic school in downtown Portland, Maine, into Freedom Place, at 66 State Street. It’s a supportive community with 38 secure, affordable private rooms, kitchens, and other common spaces for women experiencing homelessness, substance use disorder, and related challenges.
Amistad was a partner in renovating the building, and it runs the supportive community management there as well as the service that promotes recovery and pathways to fulfilling lives.
Amistad currently has 40 staff and operates 12 programs in seven different locations. In 2021, Amistad served nearly 3,000 individuals in Maine, where the number of drug overdoses that year exceeded 9,500 and a record 636 people died of overdoses. Maine’s total population is just 1.3 million.
Not only does the Genesis Fund recognize the importance of Amistad’s 40 years of work in the local community, we are confident that broad support for that work will continue from the City of Portland and numerous grant-funding organizations.