Every year, 700 people come through the doors of Carpenter’s Shelter, a nonprofit organization helping people experiencing homelessness or who are at risk of homelessness.
“As an organization that runs around the clock, 24/7 facility, we know that we need to have paid staff in the building every hour of the day,” said Shannon Steene, the shelter’s executive director.
Lately, though, it has gotten much harder for this homeless shelter in Alexandria, Virginia, to remain fully staffed.
“There is almost always openings here on our staff team,” Steene said.
Charitable nonprofits, like Carpenter’s Shelter, are facing a staffing crisis.
David Thompson is vice president of public policy at the National Council of Nonprofits, which represents 25,000 nonprofits across the country.
“Their No. 1 challenge wasn’t the pandemic, wasn’t a whole bunch of other things that we assumed,” Thompson said. “The No. 1 challenge was they could not get the staff to get the work done. They had lost staff. They could not hire new people.”
Those are the findings in a new study from the National Council of Nonprofits, which found that nearly 75% of nonprofits reported having trouble filling job vacancies and more than half reported having more job vacancies now than before the pandemic.
“We can’t pay high salaries like others, like for-profits and governments can pay,” Thompson said. “Our communities are being hurt when charitable nonprofits don’t have the staff to provide the services that the community needs.”
Thompson said that is leading to cuts in services. The study also found that nearly 30% of nonprofits reported longer waiting lists for people seeking their help.
The people who run Carpenter’s Shelter know that all too well.
“The waiting list for family shelter is on the highest end that I’ve ever seen,” Steene said. “There isn’t the capacity in our system right now.”
Now, more than ever, the shelter is relying on help from the 1,200 volunteers who assist them throughout the year.
“Carpenter’s Shelter serves three meals a day, 365 days a year. We have no paid kitchen staff. It is the community coming in,” Steene said. “When we crunch the numbers regarding our volunteers and if we needed to pay staff to do what volunteers are doing, it would be the equivalent of about eight additional full-time staff.”
Thompson said that while volunteers remain invaluable to the nonprofit sector, so do donations — which are down nationwide since the pandemic.
“What the report demonstrates to us is that hope has taken a hit,” Thompson said. “The nation was built on hope. This nation was built on people working together, and we need to restore hope.”