The homeless shelter is trying to increase their funding efforts in hopes of expanding services.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Louison House is putting people on the street to keep people off the streets.
The homeless shelter is holding a 5K road race and one mile walk through the downtown on Saturday, March 30.
The Bunny Run aims to raise money to increase the shelter's services and maintain operations.
"This is the first one and we plan on doing this every year," said Louison House Board of Directors Chairman Mark Farrington on Thursday. "We are trying to step up our fundraising."
Runners will start at 11 a.m. at Holden Street, head up Main Street to Ashland and then turn around, go down American Legion Drive to Main Street and end back at Holden. Walkers will start at 10:30 a.m.
Meanwhile, there will be live bands playing on the street as well as at The Local and food and beverages will be available.
"We're trying to make it more of an experience," Farrington said.
The event came together quickly with planning only beginning in January. Farrington said the organizers are still finalizing bands and business sponsors.
Being the first, shelter officials don't know what to expect but envision it growing to become a major source of revenue for the shelter. For years, about 70 percent of the Louison House's budget has been level-funded by the federal government. The rest comes from fundraising and donations.
"It really is a cut because level funded doesn't keep up with cost increases," said Executive Director Paul Gage. "Each year the gap grows even more."
In January, the Board of Directors decided to become more aggressive in fundraising efforts. Currently, the organization hosts the Berkshire Idol competition, a comedy show, raffles and individual solicitations. Now, the board is looking to do more.
"Fundraising, of all things, is what we have the most control over," Gage said. "There is no guarantee that the grants will come back the next year."
The shelter has been operating on a balanced budget for the last few years but have had little to set aside. Gage said the shelter wants to increase current programming — particularly a newer program aimed to prevent former clients who have found permanent housing avoid becoming homeless again — start new initiatives and set money aside for capital repairs.
"That way it will help us make sure we have a balanced budget and put some money in reserves," Gage said. "While we have operated on a balanced budget the last few years, we're not generating a surplus."
The increased focus on fundraising is also proactive, Gage said, because the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development now has more of a focus on preventing homelessness instead of shelters.
"That could divert funds from the Louison House," Gage said.
Runners or walkers can register for the race online or by calling 413-743-7957 ext. 11. Same day registration will begin at 9 :30 a.m. The first 100 who register will be given a t-shirt.