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Why are social impact investors trying so hard to defeat smaller shelters for the homeless?


"Social Impact” developers in Portland, Maine seek to squelch a referendum for smaller shelters called for by qualified practitioners with concrete experience in the field.
A large sign says Vote C to support the Homeless, small handmade sign next to it says Untrue! That sign is paid for by developers who want/ Photo by Jess Falero

In the 1970s under Governor Longley, Maine became a centrally managed economy that expanded Maine’s wealth gap and merged, almost seamlessly, the public and private and the non-profit and for-profit economic sectors into one mutually beneficial wealth-concentration & distribution system.

Currently, mutually benefitting factions are coming together once again in hopes of building a mega-shelter for the homeless in a Portland, Maine industrial development district.

In addition to beds for the homeless, the project will include, dining, and locker facilities, as well as offices and an attached health clinic.

The promotion describes the facility as “a new state-of-the-art, one-story, adult Homeless Service Center Project to replace the Oxford Street Shelter.” While the plan offers many beneficial services such as “on-site meals and a wide range of services including health and mental health care, substance abuse treatment, housing assistance, peer support, case management, employment, and more”, it raises the question of why the state of the art for sheltering the homeless, planned during a pandemic, is a sleeping environment consisting of cots lined up in close proximity in two single large rooms, one for men and one for women, situated in an industrial zone next to heavy traffic. Is this really what Portland City Council considers to be “the state of the art” in homeless sheltering?
A bearded homeless man holds up a sign saying "seeking human kindness"Matt Collamer / Unsplash

Nov 2nd- The people decide. What's it gonna be?

On November 2nd, Portland residents will vote for one of three options, The primary consideration is the number of beds that are allowed in an individual shelter. It is not about the number of beds available, it is about how many beds can be crowded together in a single room.

A citizen’s coalition, Smaller Shelters For Portland wants the number of beds to be limited to fifty and rallied to get Option A on the ballot.

The City Councilors led by Belinda Ray added the competing Option B and Option C, as allowed by the city charter, at an August City Council meeting

The City Council Council wants the number of beds to be limited to 150.

The developers want no limitations on the number of beds in a room.

According to Justin Beth of the Maine Greens Poor and Working People’s Caucus, “ There have been contradictory comments from Corporate Counsel, who first stated we could win on a plurality during a City Council Meeting. Corporate Counsel has since stated the Option A will need to win on a majority vote by participating voters.

”Option C is no change to the existing ordinance which would allow for the 200+ shelter that they want to build. We are suggesting they build a similar shelter with the same land footprint, just make it for 50 beds, rather than 200+ beds. They want to move everyone from the homeless shelter on Oxford Street (the Oxford Street Shelter), so they can re-develop the Oxford street neighborhood known as Bayside. There is a lot of profit to be made from other developers in this area and is possibly even a greater driving factor.

If Option A must have a majority to win, is the same true for Option B & C in a three-option vote?

Justin Beth said:

I've heard two different things: If none get 50%, it will go to a run-off voteIf none get 50%, things move forward as the City Council and Developers planned.

However, Since Option C is on the ballot as "Neither of the two (2) proposed Amendments to the Portland City Code above" It is the same as "no change to the existing ordinance" and should be subject to the same bar to win as the other two options.

Ballot Question:

Do you favor one of the two (2) city ordinances summarized below: ‘A’ as proposed by citizen petition; ‘B’ as enacted by the city council; or should both be rejected as provided in ‘C’?

A: This proposed amendment requires all new emergency shelters to be opened 24 hours per day and, except for family and domestic violence shelters, provide shelter to no more than 50 individuals at a time. It adds a requirement for shelter management plans to include a Criminal Trespass Order policy and appeals process for residents. It also removes the requirements for shelters to: provide adequate space for security searches and other assessments; include plans for on-site surveillance and controls for resident behavior and noise levels; provide adequate access to and from METRO service; implement strategies to help guests utilize transit.
B: This proposed amendment requires all new emergency shelters to be opened 24 hours per day and to have adequate indoor space to provide day shelter for all guests. It adds a requirement for shelter management plans to include a clear policy regarding Criminal Trespass Orders. It requires all emergency shelters to provide access to and from METRO service and to implement strategies to help guests use public transit. It requires individual emergency shelters to be located at least 1000 feet from one another, limits the size of individual shelters to a maximum of 150 beds except in situations when a shelter capacity emergency is declared, and limits the total number of individual shelter beds within a 1 mile radius to a maximum of 300. Domestic violence shelters which don’t disclose their locations for safety reasons are exempt from both provisions. The proposed consolidation of the Joe Kreisler Teen Shelter and the Preble Street Teen Center into one facility at 343 Cumberland Avenue is also exempt from the buffer and density provisions.
C: Neither of the two (2) proposed Amendments to the Portland City Code above,

Health care begins with an ability to experience restful sleep. The more strangers sleeping in a room together in close proximity to one another the greater the probability that some among them will disturb the sleep of everyone in the room.

Option B allows three times the number of beds in a room as Option A.

Option C allows an unlimited number of beds in a room.

The relationship of restful sleep to well-being is so elemental that a facility that fails to provide an environment for restful sleep while investing in mental and physical health care services throws into question the sanity of the systemic cultural context.

Another candidate for the State of the Art in Homeless Sheltering Award

There is another solution advocated by Smaller Shelters for Portland, a coalition committed to advancing positive solutions for addressing homelessness in Portland.

The coalition is made up of an assortment of people, most of whom either work with homeless people or have been homeless themselves. They are qualified practitioners with concrete experience in the field.

I endorse smaller shelters solution as the real state-of-the-art solution because it is premised on humanism.- author.

The Real State of the Art Solution presented by the Coalition for Smaller Shelters for the Homeless:

ALTERNATIVES: Everyone agrees that the City’s Oxford Street Shelter is overcrowded and inadequate. But that doesn’t mean we should settle for replacing it with another mega-shelter in a different location. Better options are available. We need our City leaders to explore them

  • To replace the 150 bed Oxford Street Shelter (OSS) plus overflow for 50 people (200 beds):
  • 40 beds: Preble Street’s new 40-bed Wellness Shelter is scheduled to open this winter in Bayside.
  • 30 beds: Preble Street’s planned new women’s shelter. Preble Street is currently in the final push to raise the needed funds to move forward with a new women’s shelter in the Greater Portland area.
  • 50 beds: proposed new city shelter on Riverside Street.
  • 40–50 beds at OSS or other suitable property OR 40–50 hotel vouchers.
  • 40+ beds: Institute a robust diversion & prevention program. (Cumberland County Regional Hub is currently being implemented; plus, a City program is underway) City staff predicts they will divert 20% of people from needing shelter; the State Plan predicts preventing 40% of people from needing shelter. (40–80 beds not needed)

You can read in-depth about this solution on the Smaller Shelters for Portland website.

Humanism is a very old idea

Humanism is surging today in the phenomena branded as The Great Resignation, a rising protest by the workforces against the hierarchical order of corporate culture. As U-Ming Lee put it succinctly in The Great Resignation: Why Millions Are Now Fed Up of Corporate Bullshit

If you’re a leader of a company and want to prevent your employees from joining the Great Resignation, here’s a simple piece of advice for youStop treating your people like shit!

In a truly humanistic society, humanism extends to every person, most especially the most forlorn. In reading impact investment talking points on the websites of the networked developers against smaller shelters, “stakeholders” are delimited by the workforces and “affordable housing”, excluding low-income housing and shelters for the homeless.

Come on guys, this is humanity! Can we agree that everybody is a stakeholder! Aren’t we all our brother’s keeper?

We are living in a remarkable moment, when suddenly those at the roots of society are taking the reigns, without a centralized organizational agent. This cultural awakening can be likened to an emergent evolutionary process that I once read about many years ago. I do not recall the scientific term for it, but it is a form of evolutionary adaptation that spontaneously emerges around the same time in remote locations that have no connection to each other. It is not a case of cause and effect, it is emergence, and as the effect emerges in remote locations as if synchronized, it suggests a state of wholeness is in the works.
A hand reaching up meets and connects with a hand reaching down./ Austin Kehmeier / Unsplash

Ok, that was strange! As I was writing that previous thought I was listening to that hypnotic music again, that music that sounds like the tides of the universe rolling onto the shore. Its effect on the listener is to temporarily lapse into a state of mind that we once called “trippy”.

The Developers

The developers Andrew Sigfridson SIOR, Managing Director The Boulos Company, and Developers Collaborative Predevelopment LLC have donated $20000.00 each (totaling $40,000) in the Portland Cares-Vote C, Political Action Committee. It buys advertising in the Portland Press Herald.

The Portland Cares-Vote C political action committee was formed to promote unlimited beds in a single room.

The developer’s role is to finance and build the facility, not to operate it. One might ask, why do developers care how many beds are in a room? If one believed that social impact rhetoric that comes with the territory, one would say because they care about bettering the human condition, but they are on the wrong side to apply that explanation when the human condition is extended to include the most forlorn, which is exactly the case in the issue of homeless warehouses versus smaller shelters. The answer lies in profit and Oxford Street, ripe for gentrification and the location of the present homeless facility.

Kevin Bunker is a long-standing principle in Developers Collaborative Predevelopment LLC.

In its proposal for developing the homeless shelter, Developers Collaborative Predevelopment LLC (“Developer”) describes itself as a “Financial Tool Expertise for Public-Private Partnerships (PPP)” possessing an encyclopedic and nuanced understanding of the specific financial tools”,” a leader in the use of tax credits, TIFs, and layering capital from a myriad of sources to achieve public and private development goals.

The Developers Collaborative features social impact Kumbaiyah rhetoric on its website but its actions tell a story of profits over people.

In 2013, the City of Portland sold a historic three-story school for $1 to Bunker to develop the school into apartments.

Coastal Enterprises, Inc, a non-profit community “social impact” development organization helped Developers Collaborative finance the project. The Developers Collaborative was awarded federal tax credits to reduce the expense of the renovation, reportedly costing $7 million

On Jan. 17, 2020, amid the covid crisis, all tenants of the former Nathan Clifford School, mostly Seniors and working-class families, were notified that their leases would not be renewed. Today the former Nathan Clifford School is a condominium complex called Nathan Clifford Residences with price tags for the largest units priced at over half a million dollars.

When asked to comment on this turn of events, city officials were nowhere to be found until the next year when the city awarded the Developers Collaborative with the contract to build the homeless warehouse.

When the city gave Bunker’s team the property in 2013, there was little public discussion about the apartments becoming condos. John Egan, the chief investment officer for Coastal Enterprises Inc, said he’s “pretty sure there was always a plan for [the units] to be sold eventually.”

Egan added, “I’m not sure who might have been in on those conversations, but it wasn’t any kind of a secret.” According to Egan, the use of federal tax credits required Bunker’s company to wait five years before the apartments could be sold. “I’m not surprised that at this point they’re starting to sell units,” Egan said. High-Profile Portland Developer Evicting Renters During Crisis to Sell Condos

Coastal Enterprise Inc was fully cognizant of the future plans to boot out the apartment dwellers and make a profit in the condominium market as it assisted the Developers Collaborative in procuring federal tax incentives. Furthermore, CEI’s chief investment officer speculated that everybody involved knew of the eventual plan to sell the development as condominiums.
A tent on the side of the street with an elegant building in the background.Gustavo Sanchez / Unsplash

Andrew Sigfridson is a Partner and the Managing Director of the Boulos Company, a commercial real estate brokerage and consulting firm with offices in Portland, ME, and Portsmouth, NH. He is also Managing Director of CEI-Boulos Capital Management and a Principal and Partner with Kevin Bunker at Developers Collaborative on the proposed Homeless Service Center Project.

Andrew Sigfridson also donated $20,000.00 to The Portland Cares-Vote C political action committee in the interest of stopping the small shelters effort from winning a majority.

Coastal Enterprises' reputation is built on a storied commitment to sustainable communities and social justice. In 1997, CEI was still perceived to be the social justice poster child.

Sustainable Development in Practice: A Case Study Analysis of Coastal Enterprises, Inc.’s Experience

Carla Dickstein, Diane Branscom, John Piotti, and Elizabeth Sheehan

This paper argues that CED practitioners have a great deal to share in the current sustainability dialogue because of CED’s historic commitment to social justice and equity and practitioners’ concrete experience in the field.
This paper examines sustainable development from the specific expe­rience of Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI), a CED practitioner.
CED’s primary contribution to sustainable development is its historic emphasis on practitioners playing a key role in building economically sus­tainable communities and acting as the conscience for social justice and equity for marginalized groups (Phillips 1993; Shaffer 1994; Harrison and Vietorisz 1970). CED emerged from racial and economic inequality in both urban and rural areas. It focuses on economic opportunities for low-income communities and individuals. It puts the values of equity, social justice, and grassroots empowerment squarely on the table as part of any sustain­able development effort. In CED, equity and social justice must be included in the underlying values of sustainable development. Without them, there can be neither political nor community sustainability. JSTOR Sustainable Development in Practice: A Case Study Analysis of Coastal Enterprises, Inc.’s Experience

Well, you know things change, incrementally, by design, over time, as the working-class apartments were planned all along to become condominiums with a little help from networked interests, so did CEI change from being an organization supporting the grassroots to being a charter member of the public-private-for-profit-non-profit wealth concentration industry.

The non-transparent non-profit for-profit relationship.

Most people understand that a nonprofit is limited to non-commercial proposes as stated below by the Foundation Group:

A nonprofit corporation is formed to carry out a non-commercial purpose, whether that be religious, educational, charitable, scientific or other qualifying purpose. It is prohibited from acting in a manner that results in private inurement (profit) to individuals. Who Really Owns a Nonprofit?

However, somewhere in time, while sliding down on the slippery slope, it came to be that non-profits can have for-profit subsidiaries, structured as separate entities operating by a different set of rules. Around the time that the 2017 opportunity zones were enacted, the Boulbos Company formed a non-profit-for-profit relationship with CEI, which is listed on its website as CEI-Bulbos Capital Management, but little more can be publicly known about what goes on in CEI-Boulbos Company interactions.

As the name suggests it is a merging of non-profit and for-profit capital. I downloaded the annual report from the state but the only additional information to be learned, which is already obvious from the website, is that CEI-Boulbos Company is a foreign corporation, meaning it can invest outside the state of Maine, and indeed it does, following the trail of the national 2017 opportunity zones.

In its annual report, CEI makes no mention of its subsidiaries. Subsidiaries of other nonprofits, if the parent group files, do not have to file a 990 report. Whatever takes place behind the for-profit subsidiary name is a black hole in the information field perceptible to the public. This is legal with the IRS as explained on the American Bar Association website, which describes the many advantages of the non-profit for-profit relationship:

Public Disclosure and Perception

While the existence of a controlled subsidiary and certain transactions with that subsidiary will be disclosed on the nonprofit organization’s publicly available annual Form 990, the subsidiary’s activities will not be subject to the same level of disclosure as it would if the activity was conducted directly by the nonprofit organization (for instance, with respect to the subsidiary’s income and expenditures and possibly the compensation it pays individuals, depending on what other roles the recipients have with respect to the nonprofit organization.) The nonprofit also may prefer a clear separation between its charitable activities and any for-profit endeavors, to avoid mission drift or a perception that its charitable work has been tainted or overshadowed by profit-making objectives. American Bar Association

It is possible to download the last three years of a non-profit’s 990 filings, available on Guidestar, but it is a very complicated filing. I searched online for information identifying where the subsidiary information is to be found but very little information is available. There is barely a mention of it as if the subsidiary exists in name only, but if that were true in practice there would be no point in forming such a subsidiary.

According to the CEI-Boulos Capital Management website, the company is “a boutique real estate investment fund management company focused on delivering both competitive financial returns and social impact. The company serves banks, family offices, and other institutional investors, and has a national scope. Areas of the company’s specialization include Opportunity Zones and the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). CEI-Boulos Capital Management

Developers Collaborative is the company assigned with developing the financing for the homeless warehouse (shelter). It is connected to Boulbos company through the principal Andrew Sigfridson, a Partner and the Managing Director of The Boulos Company, specializing in opportunity zones.

The planned homeless shelter is in an opportunity zone. Cato Institute calls the 2017 Opportunity Zones “Welfare for the Wealthy”

The “opportunity” in the opportunity zones are reserved for investors, as explained on sites such as 1031 Crowdfunding with its byline “ A Qualified Opportunity Fund involves investing in an IRS-identified Opportunity Zone, an economically disadvantaged or distressed area.” This sort of announcement is typically followed by a celebration of investor benefits with a nod to economically disadvantaged communities sandwiched in between investor benefits and presented in generalized terms compared to the very specific terms detailing investor benefits, as in the example from 1031 Crowdfunding below:

Potential Investor Benefits

Sizable tax advantage For those who invest in Opportunity Zones, they will be eligible for a 10% step-up in basis after holding the investment for over 5 years.
Benefits communities This option delivers invaluable resources to economically struggling communities that need it most, contributing to the area’s growth.
Broad investment criteria You can defer taxes on capital gains from several asset classes such as: multifamily, self-storage, hospitality, diversified portfolios + more.

Developers Collaborative Predevelopment Inc says “We’re not like most developers”

At Developers Collaborative our core values are based on the belief that a developer has great responsibility. The ways that we intervene in the build environment will affect peoples’ lives for a long time. We feel all developers owe it to their respective communities to do more than just make a piece of land or building generate the highest short term financial return possible.
We make an extra effort to listen to neighbors and employ creative solutions in order to make successful places, employ a community-based approach to planning and building our projects, and frequently participate in public-private partnerships to achieve public goals. Developers Collaborative About Page (emphasis by author)

But Developers Collaborative draws the line of the communities it serves and hears at affordable housing, and senior housing, excluding tenants of low-income housing and usually excluding the homeless, but, in this case, the tenants to be housed by the city are the homeless with the city being the direct tenant of the private developers. Are the tenants of the tenant also stakeholders? As an opportunity for economic development, what is the first thing a person needs to pursue better economic status if not a restful night’s sleep?

Neither the city nor its private partner is listening to the grassroots community directly involved with and addressing homelessness. The public-private partnership stands in opposition to what is proposed by those who are directly interfacing with the homeless population and advocating the proposal that is the real state-of-the-art solution in a humane society.

  1. This is a classic example of how top-down central management works, classically failing to connect to the core of humanity. (author)

So it's up to the people of Portland. Do they want to be the city that warehouses its homeless or do they want to be a city of humanism, developing new models of care that treat every life with kindness and consideration?
A small boy looks at the camera with stress on his face./ Haithem Ferd / Unsplash


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