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Homeless Coalition sees plans for Hope Campus

story by Aric Mitchell
amitchell@thecitywire.com

Plans for the Riverview Hope Campus were unveiled on Friday (Oct. 19) at the monthly meeting of the Old Fort Homeless Coalition (OFHC).

The OFHC is hoping that a move toward specificity will solve the grant funding shortfall that occurred in July 2012 when the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas (FHLB) denied an application for $500,000 in grant funding, which would have allowed the non-profit to purchase the 127,000-square foot facility at 301 South E Street in Fort Smith by Sept. 30.

The OFHC will try again next April, but in the meantime, Guest Reddick Architects has presented a plan to use 30,080 square feet of the building, which was once the site of Riverside Furniture. The additional 97,000 square feet will allow the campus room for expansion, said Guest Reddick President James Reddick. (Link here for PDF of the floor plan.)

"We've got a lot of building that has a lot of potential for all sorts of things, including leasing it to other people or growing in to it," Reddick said, adding that construction costs are not available, "but we are gearing up to start getting those." (As of April 2012, the campus was estimated to cost around $2.282 million.)

Ken Pyle, executive director of the Fort Smith Housing Authority (FSHA), said the Hope Campus will be primarily for the "stable homeless population" of Fort Smith with 30 available beds in the Safe Haven portion (including five in the male private sleeping area). There will also be the possibility of 12 single resident occupancies.

Reddick, who also works on projects with the Salvation Army, said the group "intends to buy an acre, maybe more, in the southeast corner (of the Riverview Hope Campus) as we start trying to define the property, with the intention of relocating all our homeless services there and repurposing our existing campus."

Reddick continued: "Our existing campus would become a neighborhood church, and we're probably going to pursue a Family Life Center on the existing campus. But all of our homeless services, including our dorm, would be relocated. We will have a new worship center, a new kitchen and dining area, and we're looking at having an emergency and semi-transitional housing for up to about 70 or 75, and then also the counseling."

Also Friday, Pyle announced that the 57-unit Clayton Heights affordable housing development is closer to fruition.

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"We're going to be signing the contracts in about two weeks to close the financing and start construction," Pyle said.

The next meeting of the Old Fort Homeless Coalition is scheduled for Nov. 16, 2012.

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