Fayetteville Arkansas, University of Arkansas--Old Main Overview

Fayetteville Arkansas, University of Arkansas--Old Main Overview
Overview of Fayetteville, AR

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Recent Census Estimates 839 Homeless in NW Arkansas

As the once-small towns of NW Arkansas grow, and the area becomes more urbanized, problems found in larger metropolitan areas are beginning to surface. One of these is homelessness.

Here the homeless are mostly invisible. Most people like it that way – if they don’t see the homeless, it is easy to put them out of mind. But the reality is that more than 800 men, women, and children are homeless in Benton and Washington Counties.

839 is the preliminary count of homeless people conducted over a 24-hour period January 25-26 by the four major cities of NW Arkansas (Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers, and Bentonville).

The homeless situation in NW Arkansas is certainly not unique. There are homeless people all over the country, in cities and towns both large and small. I honestly don’t know whether the number of people needing help in NW Arkansas is higher or lower than national averages.

But I am shocked to learn that nearly 400 children are homeless! It is difficult to comprehend that 400 children in prosperous NW Arkansas face uncertainty, hunger, cold, and discomfort every day.

Some of the causes of homelessness are well known – mental health issues, lack of education or job training, drug/alcohol abuse, domestic abuse, and marital problems to name a few.

But I feel another major issue is the cost of living in NW Arkansas. It has become too expensive for the average worker. Many of the homeless actually have jobs but wages have not kept pace with the cost of living. Some walk to work, others ride a bicycle, the bus, or find someone who will give them a ride. I think some people are so discouraged and disheartened they come to believe their situation is hopeless.

The Northwest Arkansas Housing Coalition, which began in 2003, has an ambitious goal – to end homelessness within ten years. It represents about 30 organizations and cities in seven counties.
Census data will be used to formulate short and long term plans to help the homeless. The data will also be used in the coalition's Department of Housing and Urban Development Continuum of Care applications for federal assistance.

I applaud the coalition for everything they are doing and all they hope to do to help human beings who have so little. Their efforts are in dramatic contrast with those of some other cities, such as Orlando and Fort Myers, Florida; Dallas, Texas; Las Vegas, Nevada, Wilmington, North Carolina, and Atlanta, Georgia. Those cities have burgeoning homeless populations and are passing laws that would make it difficult to provide aid to them.

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