The Peace and Justice Center of Southern Maine, which has served as a hub for activists for 10 years, needs some quick cash to help pay the rent. PJC occupies eight offices and a conference room on the fourth floor of 1 Pleasant Street in Portland. According to Melissa Boyd, executive director for Maine Physicians for Social Responsibility and the rent coordinator for PJC, two PJC offices vacated by Equality Maine in June have not been leased and the monthly loss to the Center threatens its future. But while Boyd stresses that the Center needs money, she also says “we’re not planning on closing because we have nowhere to go.” Boyd would not say when the Center would run out of funds but did claim staff members will pay the Center’s rent from their own pockets rather than move.
The Peace and Justice Center pays the building’s owner, Fishman Realty Group of Portland, $1875 per month for its cluster of rooms overlooking the Old Port. It then subleases space to several nonprofits — currently, Peace Action Maine, Maine Animal Coalition, the Draft John Edwards Campaign, the Environmental Health Strategy Center, Portland Organizing to Win Economic Rights, and Physicians for Social Responsibility. PJC also often allows social-justice groups to meet and hold press conferences for free in its conference room.
This summer, Equality Maine moved out of the PJC to bigger accommodations on the second floor of the same building (see "Equality Maine Moves Uptown, Downstairs," by Tony Giampetruzzi, July 21). Betsy Smith, executive director of Equality Maine, says her experience renting from the Center was a positive one and Equality Maine moved only because it outgrew the PJC offices. Boyd says she’s shown the spaces to a few nonprofits, and she’s not sure why they have not been rented yet.
PJC rents the two vacant spaces for $292 each per month. In August, the Center raised $400 at an emergency fundraiser to help make up for the vacancies. This Saturday, it hopes to raise as much or more to keep going.
“We’re going to find a way,” Boyd promises. “Everyone here has been going around town putting fliers up [about this weekend’s fundraiser] and one person here donated some of their savings money, which was an amazing thing. We’re just making rent right now and paying our bills but eventually that will run out.”
Boyd says PJC is not in debt to Fishman Realty, but will likely have to keep holding fundraisers until it can rent the two vacant spaces. Fishman Realty would not comment on PJC’s rent status. Renting the empty rooms will, Boyd says, put the Center on an even financial keel again.
The benefit for the Peace and Justice Center of Southern Maine will be held this Saturday, November 11, at 6:30 pm on the fourth floor at 1 Pleasant Street, in Portland. Ethan Miller and Kate Boverman of the Riot Folk Collective will perform. Wine and food will be served, and the Center is asking for donations of between $5 and $20.