Groups Meet To Discuss Homelessness In Northwest Arkansas

NORTHWEST ARKANSAS (KFSM) -- Groups around Northwest Arkansas are meeting to discuss solutions for the homeless problem in the area.

A list now exist in with around 400 names of everyone experiencing homelessness in Northwest Arkansas. The group Continuum of Care said they hope to use the list to fix the widespread problem.

"This isn't just a Fayetteville problem, it's not just a Rogers or Springdale problem, but it's all of Northwest Arkasnsas. So, we believe that by working together with all of our partners in all five cities then we can actually put an end to this," board chair Angela Belford said.

The group works with organizations like St. Francis House, who works with homeless veterans.

Belford said about a year ago, there were 105 homeless veterans in the area. Now there are about 37. One thing many said stuck out with them during the meeting was the idea of housing first, not housing only.

"That resonates with me because we provide case management. We make sure they are receiving the tools, so that they can maintain their housing and they are not repeating the cycle of homelessness," said Victoria Dempsey with St. Francis House.

But it is not just adults facing the issue, it's children as well.

Joy Shirley, director of student services with Fayetteville Public Schools said they have about 290 kids who fall into this category.

"We have to look at what affordable housing we are offering. It kind of becomes a point where I do understand that it's all about growth and it's all about moving forward and being successful, but we also have to look at how we bring the community up together," she said.

Dempsey agreed saying housing is a big problem, but it is something that can be fixed with collaboration from everyone.

"With our grant, we have to house with fair market rent and it's very far and few between. So if we could get more landlords on board working with us. Also barriers like low credit or criminal records, if some landlords could work, that would remove those barriers and we would be able to place more people in housing," she said.