Process begins to build Fort Smith homeless campus, ADFA approves grants

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 237 views 

The Old Fort Homeless Coalition is moving forward with the design and bid process after receiving approval of $695,000 in grants from the Arkansas Development Finance Authority to support the first phase of construction on the Riverview Hope Campus just south of downtown Fort Smith.

Work on the first phase of the homeless services center is estimated to cost $2.9 million. The campus will be located at 301 S. E St., in a former furniture manufacturing plant. First phase work will include a 75-bed low-barrier emergency shelter, cafeteria and commercial kitchen, showers, laundry area, classrooms, counseling rooms, barber shop, kennels, bulk storage and a worship center.

The planned Riverview Hope Campus is expected to provide access to counseling, case management, medical and mental health services, basic education/GED classes, job training and placement services. Food, shelter, a worship center, bathrooms, showers, barbershop, laundry, storage and kennels will also be available.

Services through the center are planned to assist almost 200 people a day, Monday-Friday.

A $350,000 donation from Mercy and a $100,000 donation from Fort Smith businessman Bennie Westphal was announced Jan. 8 and followed a $100,000 donation announced Dec. 10 by the Richard Griffin Family.

Mercy is also planning to operate a 6,000-square-feet low-income Medicaid clinic on the campus.

Financial support from Mercy, Westphal and the Griffins raised collections to $2.1 million, according to Debbie Everly, director of homeless programs for Fort Smith. The $2.1 million includes $603,441 in Community Development Block Grant funds from the city of Fort Smith, $500,000 from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas; and $646,559 in private, foundation and in-kind gifts.

"These grants from the State of Arkansas are the culmination of nearly five years of effort by hundreds of citizens in our area,” Everly said in a statement issued Wednesday (Feb. 25). “Homeless service agencies, churches, private donors, and public officials are committed to providing a comprehensive services campus to address the wide array of needs of those experiencing homelessness and others needing access to various social services."

Phase two is valued at $700,000 and includes 12 single-occupancy rooms for those who are transitioning away from the homeless campus. Phase three is a $330,000 project to provide 25 beds for the chronically homeless with mental illness.