Homeless Support Group Receives $400,000 Grant for New Project

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The Next Step Day Room, a day center for the homeless in Fort Smith, has been awarded a $400,000 grant from the U.S. Housing and Urban Development for its Safe Haven project for homeless people with mental illnesses.

The Safe Haven Project will be located in a clearly identifiable portion of the Low Demand Shelter included in the larger proposed Riverview Hope Campus and provide a mix of private and semi-private accommodations for a 25-person capacity, according to a news release from the agency.

The news comes just weeks after the NSDR received the results of their Point-In-Time Count of homeless individuals found that 31 individuals admitted to suffering from mental llness.

This 25-bed project helps them begin the long process to stabilized living, says Lance Fisher, executive director.

“This project brings to Fort Smith a type of federal funding not previously awarded to this area,” Fisher said. “Clearly, the need for this project in Fort Smith was so great that the Balance of State selection committee members chose to support 100% funding of the requested amount. We are excited to be able to bring this resource to the Fort Smith region.”

The Balance of State is a coalition of continuum’s of care that include the geographical regions surrounding Conway, Fort Smith, Hot Springs, Phillips County, Texarkana, West Memphis and others, according to the agency.

Of the $400,000 grant, $300,000 will go toward the projected $750,000 construction/renovation cost for the Safe Haven component of the campus. The remaining $100,000 of the $400,000 grant will go toward a portion of the operating costs for Safe Haven over a two-year period. Once finished, Safe Haven will bring – at a minimum – two additional jobs to the overall Next Step Day Room operation.

This Safe Haven Project fills a gap in the Old Fort Homeless Coalition’s continuum of care as there is no existing supportive housing project that specifically targets housing for chronic homeless individuals that suffer from serious and persistent mental illness and/or substance-related disorders.

Its targeted geographic location, co-located with the proposed Riverview Hope Campus, is intended to maximize its effectiveness as it strengthens the linkages to other supportive services that will aid in re-establishing trust and eventually re-engaging the individual with treatment and service providers.

The Riverview Hope Campus is a project under the guidance of the Old Fort Homeless Coalition that will have social service agencies working in the continuum of care that will be co-located or integrated.