FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The city of Fayetteville is deciding how to spend nearly $1.7 million in American rescue plan funds to address housing needs in the area. 7hills Homeless Center says it hopes to use that money to fight homelessness.

“We have to put a roof over their head first,” said Dr. Kevin Fitzpatrick, a sociology professor University of Arkansas. In 2015, he completed a census on the homeless population in Washington and Benton counties. We continue to see an increase in those in those persons who are reporting some experience with homelessness over the years.”

He says he’s worked to support homeless communities in the past including Northwest Arkansas.

That’s why he and a friend started New Beginnings NWA, a nonprofit that provides transitional homes.

“We encountered a number of people that were living in just the worst of worst conditions in below-freezing temperatures,” Fitzpatrick said.

And as cold weather approaches, New Beginnings NWA is working with the 7hills Homeless Center to help the area’s unhoused.

To do this, 7hills is applying for nearly $1.7 million from the city’s American Rescue Plan funds.

“I think this is a really great time for us as a city to step up and come up with a model that will work in other municipalities and other areas on how we’re going to address homelessness together,” said Becci Sisson, CEO of 7hills Homeless Center.

She says the number of people asking for their services is rising and the time to act is now.

“It’s a perfect time because the weather is about to turn cold, but it’s also the perfect time because we’re watching a crisis that’s happening across the country,” Sisson said.

Sisson says the first steps to handle homelessness start with having an emergency shelter.
The proposal includes expanding facilities for multiple local nonprofits including New Beginnings NWA, the Salvation Army, the Continuum of Care, and Divas and Dudes.

“A portion of it being for renovation at the Walker site, for 7hills, for renovation,” Sisson said. “New Beginnings is looking at a site, so that they can build some units for their permanent housing and then looking at landlord incentives happening through the Continuum of Care.”

She hopes that the city council votes for their proposal, and that the impact it will make over time will be a big one.

“Homelessness is uncomfortable,” Sisson said. “So, any time that we can come up with a solution that keeps people off the street give them a safe place to go. That’s the kind of proposal, that’s the kind of program that’s going to have impact.”

This is just one plan that’s being proposed for the city’s remaining American Rescue Plan funds. Sissin says she expects the city council will pick the proposal they’ll move forward with on October 17.