Some struggling to access rental assistance

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) – Rental assistance is now available for struggling Arkansas, but not all have access to it.

Our newsroom received a concerned phone call from an 80-year-old in Fort Smith saying the Arkansas Department of Human Services’ rental assistance program is not easily accessible for those living on the poverty line.

“The problem is that they make it almost impossible for the most vulnerable and needy to be able to navigate the application process,” says the Fort Smith resident.  

Because you need to upload documents to apply, the application process can’t be complete with a phone call alone. Something which has left this caller, who wishes to be left anonymous for privacy reasons, feeling helpless and concerned.

“The chances of my family being homeless are extremely high,” she adds.

To see how the Arkansas Department of Human Services is handling claims for those who don’t have a computer, reliable cell phone, or a way to get to the library, I spoke to Deputy Director of Communications, Gavin Lesnick.

“Even in the situation where someone doesn’t have a mobile phone where they can apply, or they don’t have a computer, they can call that number and we’ll pair them with someone in the community who will help them do a paper application that will then be uploaded,” says Lesnick.

An option made possible by community partners. 

“The call taker when you call that number is going to try and find a community organization. Where the person can go whose in that area and they will really walk them through the application. Whatever the pain point is this representative will assist to help get through that,” says Lesnick.

Lesnick says the Arkansas Department of Human Services is going to do everything it possibly can to get the money out to those who need it. However, it is the first week of this program, partnerships are still being built up, and Lesnick expects things to go more smoothly as time goes on. 

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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