What the board is recommending: After considerable reflection and analysis, the OUUC board has concluded that keeping the B and G (Bart and Gladys Burns) Annex would result in using considerable congregational resources for very limited results while selling the B and Annex is consistent with and furthers the ends articulated by the congregation in 2016. More specifically, it furthers the following ends:
- The Olympia Unitarian Universalist Congregation responds to the needs of a changing congregation and world, and
- Our lives and those of the larger community are meaningfully changed through our collaborative work for justice.
Although not an end, it must be remembered that an overarching duty of the board is to responsibly steward the financial and physical assets of the congregation.
Background and context: The B and G Annex was purchased “in response to congregational concerns during the 1993-1994 church year that the current space is inadequate to meet the needs of Church Members and Friends.” The sale was concluded after a congregational vote in August of 1994. It was used initially for religious education classes. Its use has evolved over the years having served as a parsonage, for youth meetings, as a homeless shelter and more recently as a shelter for homeless families.
For many years, OUUC has shown itself to be a strong and effective advocate to address homelessness in this community. We have done this through countless volunteer hours, fundraisers such as Books, Brownies, and Beans, maintaining and running the shelter, and most importantly, donating the use of the B and G Annex for about 20 years. More recently, our central role in the creation of Quixote Village was a priority for the congregation and may well be a model for the nation. These efforts have brought focus and meaning to many in the congregation. This is and should be a source of pride.
Why is the board making this recommendation? In recent years, fundamental strategies to address the needs of the homeless have changed. Those strategies have moved away from maintaining small shelters staffed by volunteers and toward more systemic approaches such as the Family Support Center of South Sound, Quixote Village, and rapid housing. Both funding sources (such as federal block grants) and regional homeless advocates now endorse such approaches.
Working collaboratively and effectively toward justice in the area of homelessness requires that we acknowledge this fundamental change in strategy. More importantly, the partners that OUUC has worked with in the past have adopted those new strategies. OUUC needs to work collaboratively with such partners to effectively address homelessness in this community. The “Out of the Woods” board dissolved their organization not as a result of a decision of the OUUC board, but because of those changes in strategies and funding.
That action stimulated the OUUC board to consider future uses of the Annex. At least two OUUC committees of congregants and board members have studied various options about the future of the building and land. Many options were considered through extensive study and expert consultation.
The board has concluded that keeping the B and G Annex would result in using considerable congregational resources for very limited results. Financial and volunteer efforts could be more effectively used in other ways to address homelessness, address a different social justice need or to achieve other ends.
The specific congregational resources to which we refer are the following:
- About $5,000 per year is now being spent on maintenance and security costs,
- More than $30,000 would be required to bring the structure into reasonably habitable condition,
- Many, many volunteer hours are devoted to maintaining the structure,
- A large increase in property tax obligations, unless future use of the annex is sufficiently “church-related” for the IRS,
- Potential liability for squatters, drug use or other illegal activities which have already occurred at the site,
- Selling the property and structure would net the congregation approximately $100,000, which could be used address homelessness in another way, for another social justice concern, or for other congregational purposes.
We understand that there is diversity of view on this subject among congregants. One can and should be able to interpret our several ends in a variety of ways. It is clear that if we sell the property, we will have more cash, fewer expenses and liabilities, and capable volunteers available to help our community in other ways.
If the property is sold there will be a transparent and robust discussion about how to best to use part or all of the proceeds of the sale to further our ends. There will also no doubt be a good discussion about what social justice ends OUUC will pursue to fill the gap left by the ending of the wonderful work that we did with Out of the Woods for so many years.
Submitted by Jim Anest on behalf of the OUUC Board