FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) – The City of Fayetteville said calls are constantly coming in about litter alongside public trails, which have become a common camping spot for many in the area experiencing homelessness.
Although, what Fayetteville Park Operations Director, Byron Humphry, said many callers don’t know, is most of the calls are about unsanctioned camps and trash on private property visible from the trails, and the city hasn’t had a way to go in and clean those areas.
In response, the Fayetteville City Council voted to budget $150,000 for its new plan to hire contractors to do more cleanup work on the private property around the trails.
The city created a form for these property owners, that if signed, would allow city workers, private cleanup companies, and police to enter the property to clean the area and address environmental concerns.
“These camps can have hazardous materials, there’s needles and there’s different things in there that you just wouldn’t want to volunteers to clean up,” said Humphry.
Fayetteville police officers will start giving those camping without permission a 48-hour notice to leave, and said they’re rarely prompted to give out citations or arrests in these situations.
If you own land along the trails and would like to give the city permission to clean up the area, Humphry said to contact the Fayetteville Police Department.
Though, 7hills Homeless Center CEO, Mike Williams, said campers will still need a place to go, since he said the camps along the trails are some people’s only place to lay their head for the night.
7hills is one of many organizations in the community helping the local homeless community, but only offers shelter, food and showers during the day. Williams said as the city grows, so does its housing issues.
“The area is very much in need of more housing options for people who are low-income, especially people who might be transitioning from camping on the trails, staying with the neighbors, or sleeping in the car,” said Williams.
According to Williams, the need for more low-income housing, along with the lack of mental health services in Northwest Arkansas are factoring in to the growing number of our unhoused neighbors.
Currently, Williams said there’s three to four hundred people ready to move in to transitional housing, with an average wait time of six months. Right now, he said 7Hills is looking at different ideas and testing out pilot programs in order to create more housing and bring the wait time down to 30 days.
To keep people from setting up camps along the trails, Williams said it’ll take help from the entire community. For example, on April 18, the Fayetteville City Council voted down an idea to add eight more transitional housing units, saying a near one million dollar plan needed to impact more people.
“This challenge is large and complex, and it’s much bigger than 7Hills or any single entity, the city, any nonprofit, can handle on their own,” said Williams, “We have to have a community conversation region-wide.”
You can report litter you see along the trails here. In the meantime, 7Hills said they’re always looking for volunteers to help our unhoused neighbors.