After a warm weekend, frigid temperatures return to Northwest Arkansas and the River Valley. The Old Fort Homeless Coalition said those hit hardest by the winter weather are people without adequate housing or shelter, and area homeless are feeling the effects.
“The weather right now is brutal,” said Debbie Everly, Director of Homeless Programs for the coalition. “A lot of (homeless people) have sores on their faces from the frigid weather, and their lips are cracking, and that shouldn’t be.”
A Point-In-Time was conducted Monday (Jan. 27) in Sebastian, Crawford and Logan counties to count the number of homeless people in each area and learn more about the needs of the homeless.
In 2013, the annual survey results showed 228 people in Fort Smith were homeless, and 69 of those people were completely without shelter.
“They live, whether it be in a tent or boxes, or behind a dumpster, or behind a store,” said Everly.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development uses the Point-In-Time count to determine the amount of funding which will be allocated to homeless shelters across the state.
Everly said the people in the Fort Smith area who are living on the streets tend to be locals who have been homeless for more than five years and people who were passing through but for one reason or another stayed. The common theme among homeless people in the area, according to Everly, is they have likely experienced some sort of trauma in their lives like losing a job, the death of a spouse or returning from war.
The Riverview Hope Campus – a project which will merge several resources for homeless people under one roof – will help combat some of the issues homeless people face in the area, according to Everly. She said a funding gap of about $500,000 has put the groundbreaking on hold for now, and the coalition is reaching out to the community for help to complete the fundraising.
Everly said the results of this year’s Point-In-Time survey will be available in mid-February.