Nelson’s biggest non-profit organization appears to be in good financial health one year after losing nearly $600,000 to fraud.
Audited statements for the fiscal year 2022-2023 presented at Nelson CARES’ annual general meeting on Sept. 20 show $920,019 in net operating surplus before non-cash items.
The society, which manages 270 affordable housing units in Nelson, spent the year recovering from the loss of $596,694 that was stolen from its account with the Nelson and District Credit Union (NDCU) on July 19, 2022.
Nelson CARES executive director Jacqueline Nobiss said the society continues to receive community donations, support from its funders, and has also had some debts voluntarily cleared. No programming was cut, nor were any staff laid off following the theft.
“Everybody has stuck with us. Incredible,” said Nobiss. “This community has risen to the challenge to support us over and above and beyond. It’s just blessed us in so many ways.”
It’s not clear how much money Nelson CARES has been refunded following the theft. The society said in December it had received $211,079 and was negotiating with NDCU on the remaining funds.
Nelson CARES board chair Ron Little declined to comment when asked for an update on those negotiations, except to say the society continues to have an account with NDCU.
NDCU senior manager Tom Atkins told the Nelson Star in an email that both organizations had “reached an agreement relating to the July 2022 fraudulent account activity. To respect the confidentiality of this agreement, no additional comments will be provided by either organization.”
Nobiss characterized the theft as a considerable burden on staff to manage.
“We all worked together in an amazing fashion to be able to come to an understanding about what each of the programs needed, how we would continue in terms of status quo, and everyone’s heart and soul was on the line to be able to say we’re going to hold strong because the people who we serve should not be bearing the brunt of any challenges that we’re facing in this regard.”
Chief Donovan Fisher of the Nelson Police Department said the fraud continues to be investigated by his department as well as other international agencies.
Nelson CARES meanwhile managed to stay in the black thanks to a $1.2-million increase in grant funding compared to the previous year, as well as smaller rises in rent contributions, subsidies and service fees.
Its biggest expense was the $6.3 million spent on wages and benefits for 153 employees, which was just under $1 million more than it paid out the previous year.
The society recorded $942,002 deficiency of revenue over expenditures that is tied to the amortization of its new buildings on Hall Street and Nelson Avenue, which Little said is out of their control.
“It’s simply a reflection of having two brand new facilities and the depreciation is much higher at the front end. It’s all getting lumped in all of a sudden, so there’s not much we can do about it.”
Nobiss and Little also announced Nelson CARES would soon begin its next strategic planning sessions with an eye on additional housing projects.
One potential development could focus on Indigenous housing. Nobiss said people of Indigenous heritage are over-represented in Nelson’s street community and require more services.
A second shelter is also among the ideas being considered.
Nelson CARES manages Stepping Stones, the city’s only emergency shelter, but Nobiss said it doesn’t currently have the capacity to assist people who require a safe place to sleep while also accommodating residents with complex care needs.
“Many individuals have various needs, and there’s still people who are falling through the gaps. We have individuals who are homeless who would like a safe place to go, but they may not have complex issues, whether it’s mental health, whether it’s addictions, etc.
“So they just would like a safe place to go.”