WALNUT RIDGE, Ark. (KAIT) - The Lawrence County Public Housing Agency recently moved to a new location. This is a welcomed sight for the three-person office after their original location burned down in July.
On that day in late July, everything changed for Executive Director Debi Hart and the agency.
After the fire wiped out their equipment and all of their files, the work began to find a temporary home.
“[I’ve] been making some phone calls, we’re going to try to find a new computer, get our printer going,” Hart said on the day of the fire. “We’re just going to work out of my living room until we locate a new office, [and] try to keep servicing our clients and that’s the goal, to not let it affect them.”
One week later, the agency moved to the Larkspur Gardens Community Center near the Lawrence Memorial Hospital.
Shortly after, the agency announced plans to permanently move to the former Cavenaugh Office Building on Main Street but then, exactly one month after the fire...
“One of us had come in contact with some people that had COVID, and so we thought, ‘we need to go get tested,’" Hart said, referring to her entire staff. "We... all tested positive with COVID.”
And now, after all the setbacks, the agency finally moved to its new location last week. For them, it’s a huge sigh of relief, but Hart says there’s still work to be done.
“I’m so surprised we’ve got as much done as we have,” Hart said. “We’ve got so much more to do, so I’m trying to just look out, say, don’t even think about it right now, maybe look back in six months to a year and see if we’re where we hope to be.”
Hart says she’s glad the past four months are behind her.
“I wouldn’t wish it on anybody,” Hart said. “But we’re proud that we are coming through.”
Walnut Ridge Mayor Charles Snapp praised the team for their perseverance through the disaster.
“They’re resilient, they operated from areas outside of the norm,” Mayor Snapp said. “When you look at the work that Debi Hart puts forth... and the staff that they have, the issues they’ve had with COVID-19 impacting the staff, and they still managed to make sure their job gets done.”
According to Snapp, around 55 percent of the properties in the city are rental properties and cited the importance of having a good housing agency.
“They are a huge asset to this community, to the county, and actually, an example for all of Arkansas," Snapp said.