Homelessness in Northwest Arkansas has changed over the years. What once was a population made up of predominantly males has shifted to include women and children.
One professor in Arkansas has been tracking the changes over the years and he gathered a group to help him find out who in our state is living without a home.
Every other year, University of Arkansas Professor of Sociology Dr. Kevin Fitzpatrick uses volunteers to count the homeless population in Benton and Washington county.
Since 2007 the population has increased. On Monday around 50 volunteers gathered at Central United Methodist Church. They learned what they’ll be doing this week — during a 24 hour period — to pinpoint the number of people without homes right here in Northwest Arkansas.
“We give them the location and then give them a time frame and then they are asked to go to that particular site with a team leader, theres anywhere between five and ten volunteers at a site and then systematically interview everyone that is on site,” Dr. Kevin Fitzpatrick said. “Not everyone on site is homeless, but there is a set of screening questions to determine whether or not that person is homeless and if they are, then they do a complete interview which takes about 4 to 5 minutes per person.”
Without the reliable data, from volunteers like Jazmynne Matthews, that details the homeless population in the two counties, the government will not provide federal funding to the area.
“I think that there is a fear of stepping out, but at least they are bold enough, even in their fears to say i want to do something to help my fellow man,” Matthews said.
Ever since volunteers have been doing the census since 2007, Northwest Arkansas has brought in over $3.5 million.