Local Organization Counts Homeless Population in NWA

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A local group is working to find out how many people here in Northwest Arkansas are experiencing homelessness. 

The Salvation Army in Fayetteville is just one of the sites where volunteers and employees are counting the number of homeless people living in Northwest Arkansas. Count organizers are hoping this data will help them secure funding so they can  better provide services to help the homeless population. 

“Having groups that come in and volunteer and help us, or help that community, are very important because people don’t realize that it doesn’t take much to become homeless,” said Robert Frideaux, who was formerly homeless. 

Frideaux spent three years living in a tent before moving into permanent supportive housing at 7hills. 

“Not everybody’s a drug addict, not everybody’s an alcoholic, sometimes it’s just, life knocks you down and too many punches can keep you down,” Frideaux said.

Today, employees and volunteers with Hark, a group focused on improving community services, conducted a region-wide survey to try to get a snapshot of how many people are experiencing homelessness in Northwest Arkansas. 

“We have individuals at 7hills, Salvation Army, all of the places that provide shelter, sent officers out so they could take them around to all the different places where we believe that people are camping,” said Angela Belford, from Continuum of Care.

Angela Belford, who runs the Northwest Arkansas Continuum of Care, organized the count. 

“HUD requires it every other year, but what we’ve seen nationally is that high performing communities perform the full count every single year so that’s why we decided to go ahead this year and conduct the count,” Belford said.

The count centers around a 26 question survey which asks respondents things like where they slept last night and whether this is the first time they’ve experienced homelessness. 

“Not only is it a great chance to collect some data, but we also just get to give people a chance to tell their story and be known,” said Ben Cashion of Hark.

The data collected helps groups like Hark secure funding for various community programs like 7hills and Havenwood. Frideaux says these services are essential to combatting homelessness. 

“They want you to strive, they want you to have a normal life again and I think that’s very important and people need to realize that caring is very important,” Frideaux said.

Today, Hark was also collecting data to put together what it calls a “by-name” list, which allows them to identify the most vulnerable people here in Northwest Arkansas and set them up with needed services. 

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