FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — More housing is needed in Northwest Arkansas for individuals who have a criminal background and little to no credit history.
In a meeting Tuesday night, the Fayetteville City Council voted in favor of purchasing the West End Studio Apartments. It’s in an area near Hamestring Creek that floods frequently. The most recent flooding was back in May. The owner of the complex evicted all tenants until further notice to complete renovations.
Now, all of those people are going to have to find permanent housing elsewhere. According to Yolanda Fields, who works in the community resources department for the City of Fayetteville, a highlight for many people who rented this property was that the owner did not conduct a criminal background check and no credit history was required.
“I know there were several tenants that were living there that could have afforded to be living in a different environment, but they couldn’t,” said Fields. “Whether it be their credit history or a combination of both credit history and criminal record, they could not rent anywhere else.”
According to Fields, most complexes in Northwest Arkansas require both credit and background checks. If a potential resident fails, they won’t be allowed to rent a unit.
Fields believes Northwest Arkansas is falling behind on meeting the need of individuals who fall into these scenarios.
“The City of Fayetteville is the only program that is funded through this funding source, which is the CoC e-snaps funding,” said Fields. “We do need to work to build up the funding to get more non-profits so that these services can be provided at a wider scale.”
Fayetteville offers a lot of assistance to homeless individuals through the Hearth Program. It provides rent deposits, utility deposits and monthly rents to those who are struggling.
Part of the program involves working with landlords who would normally require background checks or credit checks to make exceptions.
“I think some of the landlords that we have been able to develop a relationship with for our clients — they may not look as intensely on the criminal record or the credit history because they know we are providing the rental assistance,” said Fields.
The program is funded through HUD to specifically address the homeless crisis. When the residents of West End Studio Apartments were displaced, they received aid from Fields and her team.
“We actually were able to provide hotel stays while we figured out where they were going to go. Then we helped them to actually find a location to live,” said Fields.
Miguel Garcia has been a part of the Hearst Program in Fayetteville. He went to federal prison for a crime when he was younger. For a while, he and his family were living out of his truck and hotel rooms. He said he’s extremely grateful for the case workers who have assisted him.
“I mean, I don’t know where I would be right now. I dread thinking about it,” said Garcia.
He knows many other felons who are in the same situation and need assistance.
If you’re homeless and in need of assistance in Fayetteville, you can call the community resources department at 479-575-8260. You can also go to their website.