LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Over the last two decades, the Little Rock Compassion Center has helped thousands of people find homes, jobs, and better lives. This summer, they began an innovation process to create even more programs and partnerships to make a deeper impact.
It all started with an intern named Dawson.
The Little Rock Compassion Center is Arkansas’ largest homeless shelter. The Compassion Center’s CEO and founder William Holloway said it's a massive operation.
“It requires at least seven days a week of 10-14 hours a day while constantly being on call all the time,” he said.
He said the Compassion Center keeps growing each day.
“We feed, on average, 600 meals a day and with recent floods and other situations we’re serving between 700-750 meals a day,” he said. “It’s a constant, full time job just to raise enough food to feed that many people.”
As the Compassion Center grows, they need people with a constant vision of how to meet needs for people today and tomorrow.
“If it wasn't for the staff and people like Dawson volunteering here, these people may not have a chance,” he said.
He’s talking about Dawson Angeles, an intern and student from Lyon College that came to the Compassion Center this summer with a mission of utilizing the real world business skills he’s learning in class and applying them there.
“I created a six month program to help people land jobs,” he said. “We teach everything from how to search for jobs and once you find a job that you're interested in, how to apply for that job.”
He also taught resume building and how to dress for interviews. But implementing new programs to help people find jobs was just the beginning.
There are over 200 beds housed in the Compassion Center for people to sleep in at night, but there is limited programming during the day since the Compassion Center isn’t considered a day service operation outside of providing lunches. Dawson saw a need for people and their families during the day and got creative.
“Since this isn’t a day time shelter people aren't in the building when they aren't eating lunch so I looked into ways they could find things to do during the day so they aren't on the street,” he said. “We reached out to the library because they offered classes for children and adults like reading and computer skills so we told clients here and they attended these classes during the day to grow and stay out of the sun.”
Now, new efforts are also in place to help people move from temporary to permanent housing.
“We reached out to housing agencies and we'd help our clients ride the bus to these places and apply for housing,” he said. “Most people are on fixed income or low income so they didn't think they could afford housing but we helped show them what they could afford and through these agencies we found housing for people.”
While Dawson's internship is now over, he said he's truly confident in what the Compassion Center is capable of moving forward.
“I think the clients here have a much brighter future,” he said.
Holloway said the Compassion Center is also working on creating a separate facility for women and children and hopes to one day build condominiums that will provide temporary housing for people facing homelessness.
For more details on the Compassion Center visit here.