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Crain’s Detroit Business: Hope Network, one of Michigan’s biggest nonprofits, expands on east side of state

December 8, 2019: From Crain’s Detroit Business

  • Recently acquired St. Clair Shores-based group home, vocational services provider Homes of Opportunity
  • Finalizing agreement with Madonna University to open clinical, educational autism center on its campus
  • Developing clinical, research center with MSU, assessment center with Blue Cross in East Lansing

The former Ladywood High School on Madonna University’s campus is the planned site for a new Hope Network autism center.

Grand Rapids-based Hope Network, one of the state’s largest nonprofits, has acquired St. Clair Shores-based Homes of Opportunity Inc. as part of a larger strategy to expand its multifaceted health and social services programs on the east side of the state.

The deal comes as the statewide nonprofit is finalizing negotiations with Madonna University in Livonia to open an autism center with treatment and student training opportunities on its campus and, separately, planning another autism center in East Lansing in partnership with Michigan State University researchers.

Founded 35 years ago, Homes of Opportunity provides residential, vocational, transportation and chore services for adults with developmental disabilities in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties on a budget of just more than $7 million.

“I wanted to have the people I’ve served all these years and all these wonderful employees … to do even better with a larger organization that has (more) resources,” founder and Executive Director Lawrence Maniaci said.

Hope Network has larger medical and clinical staffs and a stronger administrative structure, with internal training departments for current and potential employees and staff focused on recruiting caregivers, as well as more financial resources, he said.

“Funding is shrinking, making it much more difficult to find caregivers,” Maniaci said. “With the level of funding we have, we’re competing with entry-level jobs in the fast food industry.”About 220 Homes of Opportunity employees will join Hope Network’s staff, bringing its Southeast Michigan employee count to about 600 and statewide employees to more than 3,000. No immediate staff cuts are planned, said Stephen Ragan, executive vice president at Hope Network.

Homes of Opportunity will nearly double the number of group homes and service sites the West Michigan-based nonprofit operates for the developmentally disabled and mentally ill in Southeast Michigan.

It will add 26 group homes and two other sites in the tricounty area to Hope Network’s 35 residential, day-center and vocational sites.

Hope Network was “a good match for the mission we’ve had for all these years,” said Maniaci, 73, who will remain with the local operation in a consulting role for at least the next couple of years.

The combination of the two organizations translates to more effective operations for both on the east side of the state, Hope Network President and CEO Phil Weaver said. “We’ll be able to take overhead costs out of programs and put more dollars, over time, into services.”

More Consolidation

The acquisition is Hope Network’s second in Southeast Michigan

in the last year. It acquired Pals Inc. in Dearborn Heights less than a year ago, when its board sought to transition out of homes for people with developmental disabilities and severe mental illnesses, Weaver said.

“I think we’re going to see more mergers coming forward in our system across Michigan,” Weaver said, in behavioral health organizations providing services in the areas of autism, developmental disabilities and mental health.

The founders of many smaller nonprofits in those areas are getting ready to retire, he said.

“They’re looking for assistance in how to make their organizations sustainable because they have a very personal relationship with the people they serve,” Weaver said.

Increasing technology demands on nonprofits are also spurring consolidation, he said.

“We’re always looking at how do we make things more effective to put more dollars toward people needing services. We’ve been very open to taking on others,” Weaver said.

Hope Network started off in 1963 serving people with disabilities and then added programs as needed to fill service gaps, Weaver said.

Today, it serves 23,000 Michigan residents annually through a wide range of programs providing integrated social and health services to people of all ages. Programs range from in-class third-grade reading literacy and autism services, to affordable housing and group homes, transportation assistance for seniors, to workforce development for people with developmental disabilities and mental health services.

Weaver said the nonprofit is operating on a fiscal 2020 budget of just less than $177 million, with approximately 42 different legal entities under its umbrella. Hope Network is still closing its books on fiscal 2019 ended Sept. 30, but said it closed out fiscal 2018 with $148.9 million in total revenue and $147.6 million in expenses.

Beyond its group homes and outpatient clinical facilities in the tricounty area, it operates administrative offices for the eastern region in Pontiac. But it has much larger footprint, with a presence in 240 communities around the state.

New Autism Center

Hope Network is finishing up a deal with Madonna University to open a clinical site for people from age 18 months to 21 years on its Livonia campus during the first quarter of 2020.

The center will come on the heels of another expected to open in the coming weeks in East Lansing, in partnership with Michigan State University researchers, Weaver said. Hope Network is also working with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan to develop an assessment center near the state’s capital.

Those sites represent the first of several new autism centers planned for high-need areas on the eastern side of the state over the next couple of years, Weaver said.


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