Fayetteville residents and students gathered at 7hills, crowding the shelter for the Walk the Xtra Mile march Sunday to bring awareness to the issues of homelessness and the rising cost of living in Fayetteville.
Homelessness has grown in the last three years, and there are about 200-300 people experiencing homelessness in Fayetteville, Mayor Lioneld Jordan said.
The event, organized by Quinn Childress to encourage residents to volunteer at homeless shelters, started at 2 p.m. and ended at 4 p.m. The march began at the 7hills Homeless Shelter, went around the Town Center on the Square and back to the shelter for speeches from organizers.
“We recognize that homelessness isn’t a local issue,” Jordan said in a speech after the march. “It’s a regional, state and national issue. It needs to be addressed.”
There are about 3,000 homeless people in the entire Northwest Arkansas region, said Kevin Fitzpatrick, a sociology professor.
Ordinance 5828, subsection 97.068 prevents people from camping on public property. This led to a wooded area by 7hills to be cleared out in September, displacing homeless people, Craft said.
Zachary Craft, a homeless Fayetteville resident at 7hills, was not at the shelter for the march but to receive help, he said. He thinks there are a lot of people struggling with homelessness in Fayetteville.
“A lot of people need help to get back on their feet. They need to go to a place where they can get benefits and keep it,” Craft said, explaining the struggle homeless people face.
These people need to have a place that allows them to set up their tents near facilities like 7hills and the Salvation Army, Craft said.
People are are always at risk of being homeless, said alumnus Chidubem Egbosimba, who helped organize the event.
“We want to challenge (people) to get more familiar to get more involved with the problems we have with homelessness in the community,” Egbosimba said.
Through the Housing and Urban Development programs and the city’s general fund $1.2 million has been invested to help homelessness in the past five years, Jordan said.
Housing and Urban Development programs are governmental programs that assist in developing communities and homelessness, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Part of this initiative is the Hearth Housing program, which provides temporary housing and support for residents experiencing homelessness, according to the city’s website.
The Hearth Housing program uses the housing first model, which focuses on initiatives that house homeless people, Jordan said.
The Hearth Housing program has provided housing for 89 adults and 96 children since 2016, Jordan said.
The Hearth Housing program provides welcome home baskets, which are laundry baskets that have dishes, silverware, paper goods, cleaning supplies and tools for those receiving housing through the program, Jordan said.