Finding Northwest Arkansas was developed as a talent recruitment and retention initiative.
Put another way, our aim is to both showcase the quality of life amenities of our region to encourage people to consider moving here and to help those that have recently moved here establish a sense of community.
So yes, we love every nod of national recognition major publications award the region or one of its cities. And yes, we love the greenway, the national music acts, the museums, the mountain biking trails, the all-around scenic beauty, and welcome every announcement of a new food truck and restaurant.
That said, Finding Northwest Arkansas also recognizes that what makes our region so great, so worthy of its many accolades, goes deeper than these things. We are not trying to give the illusion that our region is equally as diverse or cosmopolitan as the Austin’s, Chicago’s, or Denver’s of the world, nor that you will not “find” individuals and families in the region facing the challenges of affordable housing or homelessness. Quite the opposite, we seek to showcase that while we are not as diverse as other places, we value diversity, invest in inclusion, and seek to be a welcoming region to all. That while we do have challenges around homelessness, at the same time, we have many groups working collectively to address these challenges.
For this post, we have rounded up a few inspiring examples of local groups working to address homelessness and housing insecurity.
”We are dedicated to ending homelessness in Northwest Arkansas, which seems kinda crazy if you think about it but it's possible.Alexander Margulia 7Hills Youth Council
Two pre-teens have created a Youth Council for the 7Hills Homeless Shelter. It’s an organization made up of several kids who want to end homelessness in Northwest Arkansas.
Together with their classmates they recently raised $5,600. The 7Hills Youth Council meets once a month and their next project will be a sleeping bag drive.
*if this video did not load, try to refresh the page.
NWA Islamic Centers
Another recent effort is being mounted by a new charity called Muslims 4 Community. The group is made up of community members from both the Fayetteville and Bentonville Islamic Centers. Together, they are preparing and delivering 100 meals every other Friday to 7Hills Homeless Center.
In Siloam Springs, Genesis House recently showcased two of the four tiny houses they are constructing to provide a transitional housing option for homeless families. According to the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, “the nonprofit organization is a day shelter that provides a place to take showers, do laundry, have a hot meal, use the phone and get referrals to other agencies.” In addition, “the organization has provided limited emergency housing through hotel vouchers in the past. Genesis House has offered a JumpStart program for the past 18 months housing families in rental properties for 90 days.”
“Of the 19 families who have been through the (JumpStart) program, more than 90 percent have found long-term success. The program’s capacity is 12 families a year, but the program will be able to help 16 families a year once the tiny houses are complete.” To learn more about the houses and program, read the full article HERE.
Over the summer, we saw board members of Serve NWA, Aaron Marshall & Kevin Fitzpatrick bring a huge delivery of water out to homeless in the heat of south Fayetteville. Like the Genesis houses, Serve NWA is also working to provide a transitional shelter option called the New Beginnings Initiative. The idea is to develop a self-managed community of low-cost micro-shelters for people in need of shelter.
UPDATE (September 14, 2018): The Serve Northwest Arkansas Board of Directors has received notice that the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees has approved the sale of 4.69 acres of land located at South 19th Street in Fayetteville to Serve Northwest Arkansas (a 501c3 not for profit organization).
This significant milestone will allow Serve NWA to move forward with Phase 1 of the New Beginnings Community initiative to provide additional emergency/transitional micro-shelters for unsheltered homeless people living in Fayetteville. This initiative is specifically designed to meet housing needs through a “Housing First” approach. This approach will help those without housing opportunities to have a roof over their head while at the same time providing coordinated and comprehensive wrap-around services to help place them on the path towards permanent supportive housing. Read more HERE.
Then there are stories of locals like Tiffany Myers. This Arkansas Democrat-Gazette feature, tells the story of how Tiffany opened up her home to a gentleman by the name of Ronnie. Before meeting Tiffany, Ronnie had been homeless for almost 20 years. Since moving in with the Myers, she has helped him get an ID, sign up for disability and Medicaid, try to find housing and go to mental-health appointments for the first time.
As NWADG put it, “their story — one person’s attempt to help another not be homeless — is a microcosm of a much broader, regional endeavor that has taken off in the past couple of years.”
That regional endeavor is called the NWA Continuum of Care. The NWA Continuum of Care is coordinating a community response to end homelessness in Northwest Arkansas by 2025. In addition to an active Facebook Group where community members can contribute ideas and request support, they recently coordinated a town hall gathering in collaboration with 7hills Homeless Center, Salvation Army, US Department of Veteran’s Administration, SSVF at St. Francis House, Center for Collaborative Care, Genesis Church and City of Fayetteville’s HEARTH program to respond to the closing of homeless encampments in south Fayetteville. One outcome of these efforts was to come together to offer different pathways to ensure they can take care of those affected by the situation, they were as follows:
- Pathway 1: Overnight Shelter in Fayetteville
- At the Salvation Army Fayetteville Activity Center. 9PM check-in with no breathalyzer required for entry but drugs or alcohol will not be tolerated. This shelter will operate for the next six months.
- Pathway 2: Overnight Shelter in Bentonville
- At the Salvation Army Bentonville Shelter. Transportation provided by 7hills, but same terms apply as Fayetteville.
- Pathway 3: Veteran Housing
- Current housing programs that have openings. Some programs may only help with deposits, may require employment, and/or require participation in mental health support. 7hills will help with enrollment and required documentation.
- Pathway 4: Community Re-housing Programs
- Available where openings exist. 7hills can help with enrollment.
- Pathway 5: Safe Parking
- 6-8 reserved spots at 7hills day center, but you must register your vehicle with them. The area is lit, covered by security cameras, and law enforcement will patrol hourly for safety. Vehicle must move to regular parking by 8AM each morning.
Since January, Continuum member groups have found housing for about 200 of the chronically homeless in our region.
All this is to say, we find that what makes our region truly special is efforts such as these. We encourage you to follow the work of each of these groups and to find ways to get involved. Here are a few opportunities:
Both the Salvation Army shelters in Fayetteville and Bentonville are seeking volunteers to help serve meals! They serve every day so they love having new volunteers. For any questions, email their Volunteer Coordinator, Katie Morris, for more information!
On September 23rd, you can listen to great music for a great cause at Shelter Jam! 7hills Homeless Center is selling tickets for $10 with 100% of ticket sales going to support the center.
Bands performing this year include:
Ozark Howlers; Men of the Future / Los Peos; Divas on Fire; Brave Soul (formerly Bigguns); Earl and Them.