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Our House shelter expands capacity in central Arkansas

Over 2,000 Arkansans faced homelessness in 2021— but one central Arkansas organization plans to cut that number down as it expands its capacity to serve more people.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — More than 2,000 Arkansans faced homelessness in 2021 according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.  

Now, one organization in central Arkansas has plans to cut that number down by expanding its capacity to serve more people. 

At Our House shelter in Little Rock, workers said that they have to turn away hundreds of people a month.

However, this expansion will add beds and become a place for all the other programs to grow.

"It responds to a clear need in our community, there's too many people who need our services," said Ben Goodwin, Our House Executive Director.

The most recent data in central Arkansas showed that 401 people experienced homelessness in 2021 in four counties: Pulaski, Saline, Lonoke, and Prairie. 

Goodwin said that doubling their housing capacity and adding a designated space for programs will be a big help. 

"We're gonna nearly double the size of our children's programs. Today, they serve about 160 children each day, in the new facility, they'll be able to serve 300," he explained.

The new building will be home to the onsite health clinic and mental health program. 

"It's gonna help us do even more and do it in an even more impactful way," Goodwin added.

Housing Director, Michelle Barnes said that she expects to see an uptick in the homeless population this year, because of the pandemic and rising costs. 

"You have a lot of families, two-parent households, we're getting more calls from two-parent households with children that are in need of our services," Barnes said.

On average, she said that they turn away 300 people every month because their facilities fill up so quickly. 

"We'll be able to house 50 more individuals or families in our program what we're completing next year," she said.

Right now she has seen more people moving to Little Rock from rural parts of the state to get services— and this expansion will help their reach. 

"We never just sit down and watch a problem. We always try to figure it out and see how we can make a stronger impact in our community," she said.

"We try to make maximum use of this seven acres to be the place where you can go to take control of your life. And this expansion is going to really help us achieve that vision," Goodwin said.

The 27,000-square-foot expansion is expected to open in fall of 2023.

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