LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - Staggering numbers show nearly 14,000 homeless children live right here in Arkansas.
"Someone gets ill, they're out of work for just a few days and that's all it takes," said Randall Eller of Family Promise, a Little Rock organization which houses homeless families.
Eller said families can stay in the program for up to 60 days. While the children attend school during the day, their parents look for work.
Damond Phillips is a Little Rock man who his homeless along with his wife and two children, Navaeh and Mareun.
Thanks to Family Promise, the Phillips family is not on the streets.
"Their spirits are very low and they feel helpless and hopeless," said Eller.
Eller said Family Promise is primarily supported by local churches; it uses 25 of them in rotation, which house up to four families, four times a year.
"I think the major undertaking is just enlisting volunteers to be able to provide meals," said Senior Pastor Wade Shownes of Highland Valley United Methodist Church in west Little Rock.
Pastor Shownes said housing the families does not create a financial burden. He says the slight increase in utility cost is well worth the joy felt by the church's members who volunteer while hosting the families.
The families live at a church for one week before moving to the next. Eller said Family Promise is in desperate need of more churches to house families.
"(We're thankful for Family Promise for) giving us a place to live so that we won't be on the streets," said Nevaeh.
Phillips said at one time his family enjoyed a nice home.
"My kids, they had bikes, they had a playground in front of the house and everything," said Phillips.
Phillips said he has been out of work since he injured his foot in a car accident.
"I've stayed with my mom. I've stay with my mother-in-law. I've stayed with my sister," said Phillips.
But Phillips said those resources ran dry.
"Many times if they're evicted from their house they'll try to seek kin," said Dr. Terry Richard, a UALR sociology professor.
Dr. Richard said unexpected health-related bills are normally to blame for homelessness. He said children long for stability and a consistent routine. Dr. Richard said when those things are lacking, it can do permanent damage to children.
"It can have a devastating effect on their learning capacity," said Dr. Richard.
Mareun said he likes moving from church to church. He said he likes the adventure. His sister, Nevaeh, said she does not enjoy the adventure.
"It takes a long time to get to the next church," said Nevaeh.
Phillips said he wants a better future for his children. Nevaeh and Mareun said education will be the key to achieving their dreams.
"Get an education. Go to college. Get straight As and 100s," said Navaeh and Mareun.
For information on how you or your church can help families, contact Family Promise at 501.372.0733 or visit their website.
Additional data from Family Promise:
In 2012 Family Promise of Pulaski County and its network of 22 churches:
- Served 27 families comprised of 31 adults and 51 children (82 individuals)
- Served more than 4,420 meals
- Provided approximately 1,330 bed nights (equivalent to the number of individuals sheltered per night)
- Saw approximately 52 percent of individuals find permanent housing while 48 percent moved on to other reasonable accommodations
- Provided an average of 60 nights of sleeping accommodations per individual, three meals per day, shower and laundry facilities, assistance with securing state IDs and birth certificate, help with medical cost, medicines, clothing, school supplies, work equipment, transportation, furniture, access to supportive services, job referrals and case management on a budget of less than $150,000/year.
Follow Daniel on Twitter @dan_wilkerson.