Survey: Fort Smith Homeless Numbers Down

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A new survey shows the number of homeless people living in Fort Smith is down from last year.

“There’s this number of folks that just simply can’t find a way to get out of there,” said Lance Fisher, executive director of the Next Step Day Room.

In January the Old Fort Homeless Coalition picked a day and counted homeless people in the city. The survey shows less people are living on the streets. “That snapshot doesn’t surprise me because we’re getting better at getting them out of homelessness quicker,” said Fisher.

This year volunteers and staff counted 211 homeless people, 65 didn’t have shelter.

In 2011, they counted 235 homeless people, 82 didn’t have shelter.

“It’s been a warmer winter here and our numbers have not been maxed out into overflow,” said Captain Carlyle Gargis, commanding officer of the Salvation Army in Fort Smith.

Capt. Gargis says last year the shelter stayed at about 90-percent capacity. This year he says they are at 80 to 84-percent capacity. “We’re trying to get people into homes and into a stable environment,” said Capt. Gargis.

Despite the improvement, Fisher says the Next Step Day Room served 505 different people in February, which is an all-time high.

It rained the day of the survey. Fisher says some homeless people pulled their money together and stayed in a motel. They were not able to count those people, so Fisher says the survey numbers could be a bit off.