The Old Fort Homeless Coalition on Friday (Mar. 11) released the results of the 2013 Point-In-Time count which showed that the number of homeless in 2012 increased compared to 2011.
The 2013 surveys show 228 people are homeless in Fort Smith, with 69 of those unsheltered. In 2012, there were 211 people homeless in Fort Smith with 65 of those unsheltered. In 2011, there were 235 people homeless in Fort Smith with 82 of those individuals being unsheltered.
Volunteers and staff from Fort Smith’s homeless shelters and other agencies conducted the Point-in-Time Count on Jan. 22, 2013.
During the count, volunteers and staff were at numerous locations including the Salvation Army, 301 N. Sixth St., the Next Step Day Room, 123 N. Sixth St., and the Community Rescue Mission, 310 N. F St., during the 24-hour window to conduct the interviews. The volunteers and staff also traveled to different camp sites where local homeless clients are known to stay and conducted counts.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development mandates that states do the point-in-time survey at the county level every year for sheltered individuals. The unsheltered count is required every other year.
An incentive bag of items was given to those who participate. The bag included food items such as snacks and soft drinks and toiletry products such as soap, shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, toothbrush, disposable razors, shaving cream, Band-aids, cough drops, Ben-Gay rub and hand warmers. For women there will also be feminine hygiene products.
Some of the reasons people are homeless range from families with children who are fleeing domestic violence, have lost their jobs or have been recently evicted from their housing, noted a statement from the Next Step Day Room. Still others are individuals with serious mental illness or other disabilities.
Of the 228 individuals who were counted as homeless in 2013 there are:
• 15 people, or 7%, who are severely mentally ill;
• 65 people, or 29%, who cited they suffered chronic substance abuse;
• 22 people, or 10%, who are victims of domestic violence;
• 73 people, or 32% who are chronic homeless; and,
• 25 people, or 11%, who are military veterans.
In 2011, there were 235 people homeless in Fort Smith with 82 of those individuals being unsheltered.
In response to the growing needs of these populations in Fort Smith, community leaders have developed a long-range plan focused on strategies to stabilize our vulnerable citizens and their housing and to prevent others from becoming homeless.
Members of the Old Fort Homeless Coalition are collaborating efforts to purchase a property at 301 S. E St., that would establish Riverview Hope Campus, a setting with a low-demand shelter and a consolidation of services that will eliminate travel and duplication of services.