FORT SMITH, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — A nonprofit is seeing the need for its services grow in the River Valley after being open for only a year.
The nonprofit is called Jessi’s House and as the growth continues, there’s a waitlist now for people who need shelter and a space place to go.
Jessi’s House is one of the only places in Arkansas offering LGBTQ-catered homelessness services. It’s a safe place for members of the LGBTQ+ community experiencing homelessness to live for 18 months, and gain the tools that would allow them to get back on their feet.
One of the case managers, Samantha Holland, said a recent UCLA study found the LGBTQ+ community is two to four times more likely to experience homelessness. She said oftentimes it’s due to family rejection, domestic violence or societal seclusion.
“The people who are supposed to love you unconditionally, don’t accept you for who you are,” said Holland. “So we’re really sometimes starting out at the rock bottom when it comes to mental health. Sometimes you just can’t start a job in a week.”
Jessi’s House helps to meet residents’ basic needs such as food and clothes. Holland said the goal is to help those who live there build their resume, find a job, and save up money to live independently.
Jessi’s House is in its first year, and originally started with a six month program where Holland said people graduated and had success after moving out by mending ties with their families or they started living independently.
Right now, Holland is helping the six people currently living at Jessi’s House to learn how to budget, hold a job, make time to get their GED, and is helping them work through mental health struggles.
One of the Jessi’s House residents is Gillian Rowe. In the short few months they’ve lived there, Rowe said they’re making connections and saving money they didn’t have before.
“It’s a great privilege to be one of the residents here because it’s that weight that’s lifted off my chest,” said Rowe. “I don’t pay rent or bills here. So that helps me save for whenever I do move out.”
As a new nonprofit with a growing need, they’re always looking for donations and volunteers. If you want to help Jessi’s House’s mission here are some items they’re looking for:
- Hygienic products such as paper towels, soap, shampoo and deodorant.
- Gender-affirming clothing clothes for people who are transitioning. For example, large women’s clothing and shoes or small men’s items.
- Volunteers to be mentors for the residents, since many might not have family they can rely on.
- Vehicles for Jessi’s House residents to get to and from work.
- April is the birthday month for a few of the Jessi’s House members, and the nonprofit is hoping to gift them with some gift cards, if you’re able to help.
Holland said to message Jessi’s House on Facebook, use this Paypal link, or give them a call at (479) 392-7766 to help.