LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development released areport Monday that suggests Arkansas' homelessness problem is growing.
Nationwide, HUD's report shows the sluggish economy has somewhat countered a vigorous effort to house the homeless, who now number 633,782, compared with the 636,000 a year ago.
The latest count finds the number of homeless people stayed about the same between January 2011 and January 2012, with a drop in the number of veterans with no place to live and an increase among families.
On any given night, as many as 4,200 people in Arkansas have no place to call home. Sixty-two percent of the state's homeless live on the streets, not in shelters. Those numbers make The Natural State rank fourth in the country when it comes to the amount of people without a home.
Shaun Donovan, with the Urban Development, said areas of the south are particularly prone to homelessness.
"We definitely do tend to see more homelessness in warmer weather climates." Donovan said. "I would also say, though, that we see a real difference, in states that have climate difference between unsheltered homeless and sheltered homeless."
The states with the largest number of homeless are California, New York and Florida.
THV 11 News took a trip to Our House in Little Rock to learn more about the face of homelessness, and it's not who you may think of.
Evelyn Slaughter gave a tour her home at Our House in Little Rock. "These are my uniforms for work. Like I said, I work at Little Rock School District," Slaughter said.
She's part of the working homeless--a cafeteria worker at Chicot Elementary.She's been at Our Housealmostthree months now.
"I was working at the time, and the rent went up along with the utilities and stuff, and I just could not meet it being a single person by myself," Slaughter said.
"Who comes to Our House is this new face of homelessness. Working people, people who have jobs, people who have been in their homes with their children and are becoming homeless for the first time," Georgia Mjarten said.
Georgia Mjartan, Executive Director at Our House, said the growth in children is even more heartbreaking.
"It's putting a lot of pressure on us because we provide child care. We provide after school and summer programs at Our House, and we're not able to meet that need because it's growing so much," Mjarten said.
At Our House, the number of homeless kids with families jumped 47 percent from 2010 to 2011, and another 16 percent from 2011 to this year. Overall, Arkansas saw its homeless population go from 3,424 to 4,214 from last year to this year.
"It's going to be alright," Slaughter said to a fellow resident at Our House. Slaughter stays positive despite it all, feeling that's the only way toward better days.
"We just pray and stay together, and I'm the one that like lifts them up and say if 'I can do it you can do it,'" Slaughter said. As part of her time at Our House, Slaughter is taking classes on money management to help her be self-sufficient down the road.
Mjartan said that she's in touch with other area homeless advocates who share similar stories and are working together to try and end this problem in Arkansas.
The national report out Monday did highlight a seven percent decline in homeless veterans and the chronic homeless. Arkansas saw dips in those populations as well.