Though it serves as a temporary shelter for Fort Smith's homeless, the Riverview Hope Campus has made a point to put its residents in a more permanent housing situation.
Through its partnership with the Fort Smith Housing Authority, the Hope Campus has given its residents an avenue to obtain subsidized housing. As of Friday, seven housing applicants from the shelter had either placed in a housing unit or were working to place, Housing Authority Self-Sufficiency Coordinator Teresa Carter said.
“To put it frankly, they’re just a huge asset to the campus," Hope Campus Executive Director Chris Joannides said.
Carter said the partnership between the two organizations was conceived in 2009 with the plans for the Hope Campus itself. The partnership is part of what Carver called "one-stop shopping" that allows residents to address needs including housing, health care and a number of other living requirements.
This partnership, Joannides said, addresses a significant contributing factor to homelessness.
"If we had more affordable housing, if we had higher wages, a combination of things, then I wouldn’t have a job, and I wouldn’t have a campus full of residents that can’t afford normal rent," he said. "If a third of my clients are on disability, and they qualify for subsidized housing, that’s where the housing authority can come in."
The partnership between the two organizations went into effect Oct. 23. As of Friday, the Housing Authority had received a total of 51 applications from Hope Campus residents.
Joannides said he has seen the fruits of the partnership. He gave the example of a mostly illiterate woman who has been staying at the Hope Campus.
“We’ve brought her in, introduced her to Teresa, did the paperwork. She qualified," Joannides said. "Two months later, she’s got her voucher, she’ll be moving out of here and have her own place. She’ll be able to stay there forever.”
Carter said that the application process for Section 8 housing is often a slow one. She explained that an ID, Social Security card and birth certificate are required to be eligible for such housing, and that many of the applicants do not have them on hand.
These deficiencies often prompt Carter to search for the documents.
"We can work around that, but getting other stuff is tough," Carter said. She specifically said that applying residents' divorce decrees are hard to obtain.
The challenge of obtaining documents is heightened when the applying resident is from outside of the state of Arkansas. Carter said she has received "four or five" applications from out-of-state residents and one from New Zealand.
“We actually call them to find out what we can do to get that birth certificate and how we can get that mailed here," she said of the New Zealand applicant.
Carter currently visits the Hope Campus to collect housing applications from residents on Monday and Friday of each week. She said the Housing Authority will "have to be out here more often" due to the demand she has seen.
Though the demand is high, it is also pleasing to Carter.
"It’s a great thing," she said. "We’re helping out quite a bit."
"Our relationship with them is clearly vital," Joannides said of the Housing Authority.