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City restores Lambert House funding - More money still needed
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City restores Lambert House funding - More money still needed

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Seattle's Human Services Department has awarded Lambert House $68,837 for 2010. Lambert House Executive Director Ken Shulman was notified of the funding in a letter received last week.

'This restores our 2003 funding level from the City," Shulman told SGN, "so I'm very happy. On the other hand, we'll be able to start billing on this money in February 2010, and the money will become available in March, so we have to find a way to stay afloat for six months.'

Lambert House is the largest LGBTQ youth center in the Northwest. According to Shulman, his agency served 569 individual youth aged 11-22 in 2008, many of them from disadvantaged circumstances. Eighty percent lived in low-income households. Fifteen percent of them are homeless, in many cases because their parents kicked them out after discovering their sexual orientation. Forty-six percent are young people of color. Six percent identified as Transgender.

Shulman participated in the July 22 meeting with Mayor Greg Nickels organized by the Commission for Sexual Minorities, along with other board members and staff representing LGBT community organizations. He came away optimistic the City would award new funding to Lambert House.

"The mayor - how did he put it? - wanted to see continuity of funding," Shulman said. "And that's exactly what they've done. He said he wanted to hold the level of human services funding steady for 2010, but he wasn't sure he could hold it steady for 2011."

Like other non-profits, Lambert House is trying to cope with problems posed by a difficult economic environment. Competition for the limited public funds available can be intense. Nevertheless, Lambert House's reputation among other non-profits has helped keep it in the running for funds, Shulman says.

"I have to tell you this story. We'd applied for this grant, and another agency - University Street Outreach - said 'we're not applying because we want to see funding go to Lambert House,'" he told SGN.

"Some other agencies have not been so helpful," Shulman added with a grin.

According to Shulman, Lambert House also has an advantage over other non-profits because 62% of its funding comes from individual donors.

"We're envied by other non-profits," Shulman told SGN, "because we have so many individual donors. Normally, non-profits are tied to large grants. If the grant goes away, it kills them."

"If you get enough from multiple sources, that's what makes you viable," Shulman explained. "But with people losing their jobs - all our diversified funding sources - everything is going down at once. The problem is the whole economy and what it means for us."

"We're in triage every hour of every day," Shulman continued. "We've frozen two part-time positions. And that means I do the work, or the work just doesn't get done."

Shulman took over as executive director at Lambert House in 2003, and he helped the agency recover from the brink of fiscal collapse. He's optimistic he can put together a plan to keep donations coming in until the City money becomes available.

"We usually do direct mail pieces around Pride," Shulman says, "but we might add an extra mail piece in October, and then a holiday mail piece. I'm hopeful that individuals - both major donors and smaller amounts - will respond."

"Small donors in bad times tend to step up," he adds. "They understand the need."

Shulman also plans to ask community organizations to sponsor Lambert House fundraisers. "I think there's a real opportunity if we ask," he says. "They may have an event coming up - a holiday party - where Lambert House could be the beneficiary."

Shulman also counts on a committed corps of volunteers to keep Lambert House running. Every year, about 100 volunteers contribute 8,000 hours of work, delivering a wide array of services to LGBTQ youth at no cost to the agency.

Because of the number of hours volunteers put in and Shulman's frugal budget, Lambert House devotes an amazing 76% of income to its program and only 16% to administrative expenses.

"We had a fiscal audit," Shulman grins. "I was happy they were coming. Our operation is really, really, really good. People always come away impressed with what we're doing."

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