Sherri Sutherlin is like hundreds of Northwest Arkansans—she’s homeless and has a fixed income that isn’t enough to pay for rent. A new policy enacted by the Fayetteville Housing Authority (FHA) is intended to aid citizens like Sutherlin who are chronically homeless with no foreseeable way to pay for shelter.
“I would rather be in a place to live,” Sutherlin said. “My granddaughter would be able to visit, my daughter and everything, and I really don’t like being out in the open on the streets.”
The policy enables FHA to set aside a number of their housing vouchers and public units specifically for members of the homeless community who are considered the most vulnerable and have a fixed income. Ten percent of the vouchers and units will be reserved for that group. The organization typically has 20 vouchers to distribute for everyone on a waiting list, including non-homeless individuals, but a grant through the Arkansas Development Finance Authority increases that number to 60 in July, said Angela Belford, the FHA’s executive director.
That’s important because 715 people are on the waiting list, and the number of distributed vouchers is maxed out.
“We’ll be issuing [40 new] vouchers, and so four of those will immediately go to homeless services,” Belford said.
The 10-percent mark may seem small, but Jessica Andrews, Seven Hills’ CEO, said she thinks the number will have a significant impact on the homeless community.
“It really is a lot, in fact, and I think it’s really going to help us have more housing options for individuals experiencing homelessness,” Andrews said.
Sutherlin is on a separate list compiled by the Continuum of Care that lists members of the homeless community and details their level of need concerning housing. Individuals will be chosen from this list when the FHA decides how to allocate vouchers and units, Andrews said.