A task force to end homelessness got some major help

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - The city of Jonesboro is getting an almost $94,000 grant to help people in need in the region.

Emma Agnew, Community Services Manager for the city of Jonesboro, said the money will be used to help combat the homelessness problem in several counties.

"The only way to end homelessness," Agnew said. "Number one is you have to prevent it. Number two is to provide housing for those who are homeless. And by housing, I mean permanent housing arrangements."

Perrin appointed a task force to end homelessness several months ago.

"So, the task force decided we needed to work on taking care of immediate needs," Agnew said. "We also needed to look for a way to resolve the housing issue."

The Continuum of Care Grant became available and they jumped to apply.

"What we applied for through the Continuum of Care Grant is called Rapid Housing," Agnew said. "This allows us to be able to rapidly place homeless individuals and families into permanent housing. The way we do that is by subsidizing rent and utilities. In addition to providing a number of services to help those families be able to stay in those homes."

Agnew said their goal is to not just find someone a place to stay but to get them off the streets permanently.

"We want to provide them with the combination of services," Agnew said. "Such as job placement skills, job training, budgeting classes, mental health counseling if they need it. Case management and more. They have an opportunity to become self-sufficient. While through the Continuum of Care Grant, we are able to subsidize their rent and utilities. Help them find a job and maintain that job. And help them set aside some money. Teach them some budgeting skills. Help them set aside some funds so that once they graduate from the program, they don't just start off with nothing."

Agnew was thrilled when she learned they had been awarded the grant.

"It was very exciting," Agnew said. "It was exciting to find out we could secure this grant. It's been a while since the city participated in this process to help homeless. And so, the city, the mayor, everybody was excited to find out that our grant had actually been accepted this year. And we're actually going to be able to help some people move off the street into housing."

Agnew said the first step is to do some planning.

"Once we receive an official letter of the grant," Agnew said. "We will then have six months to gear up. One of the things the task force is implementing is a HUB. It's going to be kind of a one-stop shop. That will be the entry for those who are interested in the program, who need referrals, looking for resources. They'll be able to go to this HUB and apply there for whatever services they need. Whether it's the rapid rehousing, counseling, shelter or just a hot meal."

Agnew said she doesn't know how much of the money will be used for what, yet.

The task force will be creating a budget in their planning process.

"We will be looking at youth homelessness," Agnew said. "We'll also look at veterans that are homeless and also families."

Agnew said they did a count of the number of homeless people in January of this year.

"In January when we counted," Agnew said. "We counted about 140 to 150 homeless in the tri-county area. That's Poinsett, Greene and Craighead. With close to fifty of those being from Craighead County."

Agnew said that number comes from people who are truly homeless.

It does not include those who are sleeping on a friend's couch or have found temporary shelter somewhere.

"From all the evidence of the service providers I have talked to," Agnew said. "I think that is actually half of the true number that is out there. So, this is a real problem. And unless there is some sort of intervention it's going to get worse. It's not going to get better by itself. We're going to have to intervene to stop it because it is constantly growing."

Agnew said the success of their mission will depend on community support.

"This is just not an issue only a few people can handle," Agnew said. "There are going to have to be widespread changes for this to be successful. We're going to need everyone's support. We're going to need a ton of volunteers. We're looking to run this HUB strictly with volunteer labor. We're also going to be looking for and locating places for people to stay. Where we can subsidize. Where we can help with paying the rent until individuals are able to on their own."

Agnew said they hope to have the HUB opening in late February or early March of next year.

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