Funding emerges for Fort Smith homeless campus

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 122 views 

The Riverview Hope Campus is not yet a reality, but it’s already done a first for the Fort Smith region.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has granted Next Step Day Room, a tenant-to-be, a $400,000 grant for the Safe Haven project, which will become part of the Hope Campus.

According to Lance Fisher, executive director of Next Step, the Safe Haven portion of the Hope Campus will “consist of 25 semi-private spaces for chronic homeless persons with mental illnesses.”

“Going through Next Step now, you can see the ones I’m referring to. They’ll be talking to themselves or yelling at themselves, with some diagnosed as psychotic,” Fisher added.

Fisher noted the campus would have a designated space for treatment, “where clinicians can try out different medications, work with the dosages, and get them (homeless) to where they are stabilized enough to handle being in low demand or church shelters,” he said.

Along with $150,000 in approved funding from a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and an additional $90,000 in grant funding from the Community Development Advisory Council (CDAC), the Hope Campus “has gone from $0 to $640,000 in three days,” according to Marshall Sharpe, the Old Fort Homeless Coalition (OFHC) President, who addressed attendees at Friday’s (March 16) meeting.

The OFHC would manage the Riverview Hope Campus with a board of directors that will likely consist of the OFHC president and vice-president; OFHC secretary and treasurer; the OFHC immediate past president; representatives from Salvation Army, Next Step Day Room, and Community Rescue Mission; and three at-large positions, appointed and voted on by the Board of Directors, should the new proposed by-laws pass in May.

Estimates are still uncertain on what the Hope Campus will cost since former tenant-to-be River Valley Regional Food Bank (RVRFB) moved into a $2 million donated property at 1617 Zero Street on March 14. But for now, the OFHC is holding to the $2 million number, though board member Karen Phillips told The City Wire “that number could come down” as the OFHC finalizes property acquisition.

Phillips said the OFHC is applying for two separate grants of $175,000 and $500,000 from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas, and that applications for both are due April 2. The different partners of OFHC will handle their own operating expenses, Phillips said.

On Wednesday, The City Wire reported that the OFHC has not yet attained a building for the Riverview Hope Campus, but that a 30,000 square-foot machine shop located at 320 S. E. St., is currently being considered.