People in Madison County are banding together to fight the issue of homelessness head-on.
“We’ve had two or three folks in the past year that asked to park their car in the church parking lot and stay there overnight,” said Brad Moore, Pastor of Presley Chapel United Methodist Church and Huntsville United Methodist Church.
Affordable housing in Madison County can be hard to come by.
“There’s no homes to go. We just recently got 40 approved vouchers and we’re filling those fast with Northwest Arkansas housing, but unfortunately, there’s no housing to put them in. We’re pretty much at a crisis at this moment. I have three people I know that needs a house right now,” said Open Arms Food Pantry and Pregnancy Center Director Nancy Dignan, she’s also a pastor of Faithful Servant Ministries.
Funding for housing projects is equally as challenging to find.
“Madison County has never had an organization that could receive any grants for homelessness or for housing. That money goes to Washington County and it should really be coming to Madison County. Now that we have an organization in place, that money can come to us and see what can be done,” Dignan said.
The Madison County Ministerial Alliance, made up of pastors, drug court officials, housing authority and food pantry leaders, are working jointly to help people back on their feet.
That means securing a building to house, mentor, and teach finance classes to those who need it most.
The group meets regularly to move closer to that goal.
“The focus truly is on building community and helping people to learn how to take care of themselves. It’s not so much a hand-out as it is a hand-up,” Moore said.
Homelessness doesn’t necessarily mean people are living on the streets.
Madison County Ministerial Alliance President Alex Foster said, “We’re just seeing a lot of transitional things, people kind of surfing and really not having a place to call their own. It breeds a vicious cycle.”
In Madison County, there are at least 99 students that are homeless.
Members of the alliance recently toured a housing complex in Eureka Springs for inspiration.
“ECHO Village in Eureka Springs is doing it right and it’s a wonderful model and that’s what we would love to do here,” Moore said.
As for right now, the project will start off small.
“We are going to start with possibly a trailer and put it in a park, and at least we have a place for someone to come if they are in drug court and living with a community that has drugs,” Dignan said.
And although there’s a long way to go, the alliance members said they’re not doing it alone.
“We feel that God is leading us in this area and really moving us to take action,” Moore said.
A resource fair of local vendors will be held in Huntsville on June 4 to help those in Madison County who are without a home.
It’s also a way for the Madison County Ministerial Alliance to get a better idea of the number of people who need housing.
It will be held at Open Arms Pregnancy Center from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and a meal will be provided.