The Harbor, a regional advocate for victims of domestic and sexual violence, is selling the Van Dusen Building, which was once supposed to be the nonprofit’s new headquarters.
The group has been based in the Norblad Building since 2010. Sue Farmer, the interim executive director since the quiet departure of Melissa Van Horn in September, said the Van Dusen Building, hasn’t gone on the market yet, but has attracted interest.
“This sale will provide much needed financial stability, which in turn will allow us to better leverage grants, and in turn increase core services that support our mission,” the group said a release. “How we get there, and how we create a sustainable future, is all a part of the long-term strategic planning currently being pursued by the board.”
For more than 40 years, The Harbor has assisted in the intervention, recovery and well-being of survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. The group operates a 24-hour crisis line, sexual and domestic assault response team, support groups, shelters and other advocacy services. Last year, the group provided services to 1,433 people, including 727 who were new clients.
A new home
Pig ’N Pancake founders Marianne and Robert Poole donated the Van Dusen Building to The Harbor, which used to operate there before moving to the Norblad, between Duane and Exchange on 14th Street. Former Director Julie Soderberg undertook a campaign to raise $370,000 to renovate the building and consolidate operations, but fell short of the goal.
For the past nine months, The Harbor’s board has investigated the financial feasibility of moving to the Van Dusen Building, concluding the move would be too costly and would not support the group’s mission.
The Van Dusen Building’s renovation has received significant investment from donations, fundraisers, volunteer hours and grants. But Farmer said the renovation would have required at least another $350,000 to complete.
“I just don’t know that owning a building is the best use of our time and resources,” she said.
Farmer said the Poole family supports the sale. The Van Dusen Building is on the corner of Duane and 10th streets, across the street from the old Waldorf Hotel, which is being renovated for workforce housing, and the Astoria Library.
The Harbor has faced significant turnover in staff and board members. Farmer, the former chairwoman of The Harbor’s board, is the group’s third director since the 2012 departure of Pat Burness, who led what was then known as the Women’s Resource Center for 20 years.
Farmer said she does not know why Van Horn left The Harbor.
Van Horn became director in February 2016 after Soderberg resigned without explanation. Soderberg left shortly after The Harbor attempted to shut down all services in September 2015 during an internal restructuring, before the group’s board stepped in to continue operations.
“We are hoping this break in services will allow time for the board of directors to utilize outside resources to gain a new standard necessary for moving forward in a professional manner,” Soderberg said in a statement at the time. “The unfortunate reality of Clatsop County is that there is a long history of nonprofit boards not taking their commitments seriously.”
Farmer said the board’s strategic planning process will continue during the summer.
“I think it’s going to focus on funding, because we get some grants, but we don’t get enough grants,” she said. “We can’t apply for foundation grants, because foundations need for you to have money in the bank and to be stable. They don’t look at your assets, like the building or anything.”
Farmer said she is working on trying to get more business and grant support for The Harbor. The group is also trying to bolster its core of volunteers for services such as the sexual and domestic assault response teams, Helping End Abusive Relationship Tendencies support group and The Courage to Heal sexual abuse support group.