Lit­tle Rock joins global partnership to re­duce home­less­ness

El Dorado News-Times - - News -

LIT­TLE ROCK (AP) — Lit­tle Rock of­fi­cials an­nounced ear­lier this month that they will try to re­duce street home­less­ness by 25 per­cent in Ward 1 by 2020, the first step in a partnership with a group that is striv­ing to end street home­less­ness in 150 cities across the world by 2030.

The In­sti­tute of Global Home­less­ness has part­nered with eight “van­guard cities” so far. Lit­tle Rock will join Chicago as the sec­ond city in the United States. Other cities are Ade­laide, Aus­tralia; Ed­mon­ton, Canada; Glas­gow, Scot­land; Greater Manch­ester, United King­dom; Ri­jeka, Croa­tia; and Tsh­wane, South Africa.

The in­sti­tute is af­fil­i­ated with and par­tially funded by Chicago’s DePaul Univer­sity and Depaul In­ter­na­tional. Depaul Char­ity is a branch of Depaul In­ter­na­tional and op­er­ates Jeri­cho Way Cen­ter, a day re­source cen­ter for the home­less in Lit­tle Rock.

The in­sti­tute plans to an­nounce four more city part­ner­ships in the next six months.

“They’re a re­source,” City Man­ager Bruce Moore said. “This is the work they do every day.”

Moore and Ward 4 City Di­rec­tor Capi Peck went to Chicago to meet with in­sti­tute lead­ers in the spring. Sev­eral ser­vice providers said they learned about the partnership re­cently.

Peck said that at first she was wary about the lofty goal, but as she has learned more, her ex­cite­ment has grown.

“Ul­ti­mately, we all have the same goal,” she said. “It’s a daunt­ing task, but I think it’s achiev­able.”

Lit­tle Rock was se­lected in part be­cause of its sta­tus as a “city of com­pas­sion,” and it’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive of smaller cities, said Molly See­ley, an in­sti­tute pro­gram di­rec­tor.

“You in Lit­tle Rock now carry a re­spon­si­bil­ity not only to Lit­tle Rock, but to your coun­try and the rest of the world,” Dame Louise Casey said of the partnership. Casey, a U.K. res­i­dent, is the ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee chair­woman for the in­sti­tute.

At a morn­ing meet­ing with ser­vice providers and city of­fi­cials, in­sti­tute rep­re­sen­ta­tives out­lined plans to achieve the goal. The first step will be to count the home­less on the city streets, the Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette re­ported.

The 2017 cen­sus of the home­less in the Lit­tle Rock met­ro­pol­i­tan area showed that there were about 990 home­less peo­ple in Lonoke, Prairie, Pu­laski and Saline coun­ties. Just over half of those did not have reg­u­lar shel­ter.

See­ley said the count will be sim­i­lar to the point-in-time cen­sus of the home­less that is con­ducted every other year.

Af­ter that, a steer­ing com­mit­tee that has not yet been se­lected will ex­am­ine what work is be­ing done in Lit­tle Rock to help the home­less and why peo­ple be­come home­less in the city, and will try to di­vert peo­ple away from home­less­ness.

See­ley said there will be monthly check-in calls with the in­sti­tute to see how Lit­tle Rock is pro­gress­ing. If ser­vice providers or city of­fi­cials have ques­tions, they can con­nect with ex­perts.

“We’re not go­ing to come in and say, ‘This is what you do,’” See­ley added.

The in­sti­tute will help Lit­tle Rock come up with a plan. Lit­tle Rock will com­mit to re­duc­ing street home­less­ness by 25 per­cent in Ward 1, which in­cludes down­town and other ar­eas of north­east Lit­tle Rock. The city also will com­mit to adopt­ing the in­sti­tute’s def­i­ni­tion of end­ing street home­less­ness, be­com­ing a part of the in­sti­tute’s slid­ing scale of data and re­port progress and send­ing at least two rep­re­sen­ta­tives to an an­nual learn­ing work­shop.

See­ley said the in­sti­tute will help con­nect Lit­tle Rock of­fi­cials with home­less ad­vo­cates from other cities and keep them ac­count­able to meet their goal.

Ear­lier this year, Lit­tle Rock Mayor Mark Stodola an­nounced that the city was at “func­tional zero” for home­less vet­er­ans, which means that ser­vice providers know who the home­less vet­er­ans are and can put them in shel­ter quickly.

In 2006, the city pledged to end chronic home­less­ness by 2016, but a re­port this year from the Cen­tral Arkansas Team Care for the Home­less showed 82 chron­i­cally home­less in­di­vid­u­als stay­ing in emer­gency shel­ters.

The dif­fer­ence be­tween the Ward 1 goal and pre­vi­ous goals is the pres­ence of a third party, Casey said.

“We just re­flect back what peo­ple al­ready know, but find quite dif­fi­cult to say to each other,” Casey said. “Let’s just re­mind our­selves why we’re all here.”

Casey said Chicago has seen de­creases in vet­eran home­less­ness since the city’s partnership with the in­sti­tute started. The city has been work­ing on bring­ing vet­eran home­less­ness down since 2014, three years be­fore the in­sti­tute’s pro­gram be­gan.

She also said that in Ade­laide, of­fi­cials have a new un­der­stand­ing of why peo­ple be­come home­less, which she thinks will hap­pen soon for Lit­tle Rock.

Chris Porter, the home­less­ness advocate who works for Lit­tle Rock, said he was hope­ful about hav­ing an official start­ing point and smaller goals to meet along the way to end­ing street home­less­ness.

“All those peo­ple who are suf­fer­ing here, if we can work in a cer­tain area, I think that’s a great idea,” Porter said. “I think we should not ne­glect the other ar­eas be­cause we are spend­ing that en­ergy in one area.”

But he added that the city would need more hous­ing be­cause there isn’t enough space to put ev­ery­one who is home­less into homes right now.

Casey added that the even­tual goal is to end home­less­ness over­all.

“If we solve street home­less­ness, we can look at shel­tered home­less­ness,” Casey said. “If we solve shel­tered home­less­ness, we can look at peo­ple in in­se­cure hous­ing.”

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