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Local Organizations Join Forces to End Homelessness

Local organization will join forces to create a “one-stop-shop” of housing and other services in an attempt to end homelessness in the Fort Smith area.

Local organizations will join forces to create a "one-stop-shop" of housing and other services in an attempt to end homelessness in the Fort Smith area.

The Old Fort Homeless Coalition plans to purchase a 127,000-square-foot building on South E Street formerly home to the Riverside Furniture Inc. Plant. The organization plans to transform the space into the Riverview Hope Campus.

Karen Phillips, vice president of the coalition, said as many as 85 people are living on the streets of Fort Smith each night. This figure does not include individuals staying in shelters, churches, cars or with family or friends.

Phillips said there are a number of food and shelter options and other services available to the homeless, but they are spread out across the area.

"If we could get all of the services together under one roof so-to-speak, we would be able to better serve them, and also remove duplication of services," said Phillips.

Coalition members plan to offer the homeless transportation services, access to medical personnel and individual case managers.

Phillips said the biggest obstacle preventing the homeless from finding stable housing is the inability to find steady work.

"Even though there may not be a lot of jobs, we want to be able to give them a fair chance at those," she said.

The coalition will offer job training and a variety of employment-related services.

"We hope to have some computers there so that they have access to internet and they can research some places (to work)," said Marshall Sharpe, former president of the coalition. "We'll also teach them some etiquette on how to go to an interview. If they don't have the clothes to dress to go to an interview, then we will have some of those available to help them."

According to Phillips, the homeless will also be able to attend classes on resume writing and managing finances.

Phillips said the campus will offer multiple housing options with the basic needs being met at the low demand shelter. She said as the individual continues to take advantage of the options on campus, other housing opportunities will become available to them.

"We're just trying to get them off the streets and get them warm," said Sharpe. "Something that we're used to every day."

The coalition hopes to moves into the new facility in Sept. 2013.

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