FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — 7hills Homeless Center in Fayetteville has changed its plan of action just a bit because of the novel coronavirus. And today those who live outdoors had to deal with extreme rain adding another layer of difficulty.
“Imagine getting tested positive for COVID-19 and living on the street,” said Board Member and Acting Crisis Communications Director Jo Kaye Bandy. “You may not have medication or level of health care, … and your campsite got washed away with the floodwaters.”
The nonprofit is assessing if they need to provide sleeping bags or tarps because of the rain, but there are only so many available.
In January, more than 400 “clients” used the facility for showers, meals, counseling, laundry. Now onsite service, face-to-face, is provided twice a week — Tuesdays and Fridays — and not all week.
Bandy said, “because of the development of an active case [COVID-19] it required us to close the office and the day center and be on-site twice a week.” It was also important to keep clients, volunteers, and employees safe and allow those who can work from home to do so.
Another resource they’re doing without is the University of Arkansas’ nursing department. “They help with health screening, however, at the moment that’s on a temporary hold due to the university’s move to online courses as a result of COVID-19,” said Bandy.
Bandy said they are providing the most basic of essential services. “Food, clothing, and mail will be distributed twice a week.”
Also, the clients were advised of all available resources if they need to get medical assistance. “We educated people about COVID-19, what it means, and how to prevent the spreading of illness,” said Bandy.
Clients were instructed what to do if they have symptoms of the disease, given a symptom checklist and advised on social distancing. “Most clients do have access to a phone and they were told to reach out to screening locations if they felt ill,” said Bandy.
Donations for certain items are being accepted: food, over-the-counter medication, soap, cleaning supplies, or monetary donations. Nonessential items are not recommended.
The COVID-19 situation has hit the agency at its bottom line. “Because we’re having to postpone our spring fundraiser we are hoping for donations,” said Bandy.
SNAPSHOT OF HOMELESSNESS ACROSS SOME NEIGHBORING STATES
The below information is based on an annual report by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). This data is from 2018.
ARKANSAS: Around 2,712 people were homeless. Of those, 251 were veterans (a 5% increase from 2017), 432 were homeless families with children, 240 unaccompanied youths. More than 46% of the homeless population experienced homelessness “unsheltered.”
- Missouri unaccompanied homeless youth: 534
- Oklahoma unaccompanied homeless youth: 318
- Louisiana unaccompanied homeless youths: 214
- Mississippi unaccompanied homeless youth: 87
- Missouri homeless veterans: 507
- Louisiana homeless veterans: 406
- Oklahoma homeless veterans: 373
- Mississippi homeless veterans: 102