Homeless Facility ‘Hope Campus’ To Open In Fort Smith On Friday

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FORT SMITH (KFSM) -- The Hope Campus, a facility that can house up to 150 homeless people will open on Friday (Sept.29) in Fort Smith at 8 a.m.

"If you are homeless, we will take you through the steps to help you get a job. We have educational opportunities here. We have a barber shop, a dentist chair and we have washers and dryers," said Greg Pair, the Hope Campus Board President. "This is a place for the homeless and those in need to come and get help. Not only help. but if you are hungry you can come and eat in our cafeteria. If you are a family, but you are struggling and don't know where your next meal is coming from, it can come from here."

Pair said the facility could feed up to 500 people a day, but is set up to house 150 on a daily basis.

The Hope Campus has been in the works for nearly eight years. Pair said the homeless population of Fort Smith is estimated to be around 300 people.

"Eight years ago the city did a study. In that study they realized we had a homeless problem. The effort started being made, ok, how can we fix this problem?" Pair said. " A committee of people got together to raise funds to build this campus. We felt this was the best model after going to Dallas, Florida and other cities. This is the model we picked because in our minds it would work the best. It is giving people their hope back and it's not just a place to sleep. It's a place to help you with your life. We don't know the story behind the people that are homeless. We have to look at it and say, 'ok, how can we help you'? Do they have an alcoholic problem, a drug problem? We are willing to help them. They got to take the first step."

The shelter also has a kennel for those who need to bring their pets with them. The space is limited and local veterinarians will donate their time to check up on the pets, according to Pair.

The campus will also have security 24 hours a day.

Pair said grants have helped build the facility, but to keep it operational, donors and volunteers are needed.

"When you are a nonprofit and you are servicing the public the way we are, you have to raise money everyday. Every day we seek donors to  help us out with our project. Money is great. We have to have it but we also need that donor of time to volunteer to help us maybe in the kitchen, or doing laundry. Whatever the case may be. We always need  volunteers," Pair said.

Pair said when the doors open on Friday (Sept. 29), volunteers are not sure how many people will show up. He said it will likely take a few weeks for the word to get out among those who need their service.

Pair said as long as a person who shows up for help is making an effort to get back on their feet, they can likely stay at the campus for as long as needed.

Hope Campus will also expand in the next few years, Pair said.

"We are building it as such that we have a phase two and a phase three," he said. This is just the first phase.