Beset with years of financial struggles, a dysfunctional board and recalcitrant management, YouthPride now faces eviction from its Edgewood Avenue home in Inman Park even with an intervention this week by more than a dozen LGBT activists and community leaders.
YouthPride faces a past due rent bill of $40,000, enough that the non-profit’s landlord recently served it with an eviction notice. Jordan Myers, YouthPride’s board president, made the announcement on Wednesday during a meeting with 17 LGBT activists and non-profit leaders. But, symptomatic of the organization’s management struggles, Myers was unsure when the eviction would take place and Executive Director Terence McPhaul (top photo right) decided minutes before the session not to attend.
“We did get a notice of eviction and we will not be able to stay in our building,” Myers said. “I can’t give you a date because I don’t have that email. It is in February. Were we to stay in that facility, we’d need that rent paid, that sum of $40,000.”
A drop in grants and donations has prompted another financial crisis at the organization. In 2009, YouthPride furloughed three staff members and later fired one of its two executive directors when it faced a cash crunch over a drop in donations and grants.
But YouthPride’s public response during the current crisis has been mixed. In early December, McPhaul said the group needed $50,000 in donations or it would soon close. Myers later said $25,000; McPhaul’s number changed to $40,000 and throughout, the agency’s website listed two other fundraising campaigns. When the fundraising deadline passed, McPhaul lashed out at a reporter when questioned about it and other management matters.
On Wednesday, LGBT leaders including AID Atlanta’s Tracy Elliott, Saint Mark’s Josh Noblitt, Tracey McDaniel from Juxtaposed Center for Transformation, Kathy Colbenson from CHRIS Kids, HRC Atlanta’s Julie Wood, and business people Jamie Ensley, Alison Hall, Maggie Lopez and Patt Cianciullo gathered to rally support for YouthPride and develop a strategy to prevent its collapse. The meeting, held at AID Atlanta’s offices on Peachtree Street, was organized by gay teacher Charlie Stadtlander.
“I felt that one of the reasons this meeting was necessary was to find out where YouthPride is currently,” Stadtlander said. “I’m not going to quit screaming every day about this organization’s issues.”
But Myers said he was reluctant to attend the meeting, asked to close it to media outlets who were invited to attend and had few specifics when asked about the organization’s financial picture and governance. The board has seen several resignations in past months and hasn’t met in more than a year.
“We have had board attrition and have been struggling to get finances,” Myers said. “This is the first time the community has come in and asked us these questions and been concerned about YouthPride. It is a bit much.”
When asked how much money is needed to keep YouthPride open, Myers couldn’t provide an exact figure but said they face monthly operating expenses of $8,500 to $10,000. A portion of that is McPhaul’s $60,000 annual salary.
“I literally decided to come here 20 minutes before I came. We are in the hole. The lease is something that we are going to be forced out of because we can’t afford the lease,” Myers said.
The activists and non-profit leaders spent much of the nearly two-hour meeting discussing the viability of YouthPride and whether it could be saved or even had a legal, functioning board. Given the group’s public struggles, Lopez questioned whether donors would “want to throw money at a sinking ship.”
But the activists eventually settled on crafting a task force to conduct an internal audit of YouthPride, with Myers’ cooperation, to better gauge its financial picture and another panel to address the services YouthPride provides so they can be moved to other locations and agencies when the agency is evicted or closes its doors.
“This shouldn’t be presented in a threatening way. This is a positive step to save the organization,” Elliott said. “Let’s put this group together and move very quickly.”