I am so excited to share my space today with a special guest.  When I knew we were sharing about HOMELESSNESS in Northwest Arkansas, I knew I wanted to invite this special guest in to share with you.  The more I read about the work that Kevin Fitzpatrick and his team at the University of Arkansas do, I’m moved.  Whether its the sociologist in me or the reoccurring thoughts from my Urban Community class in college, I realize its a real problem that my community faces and I want you to hear it straight from the person who works with this every day!

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How is it that in a country as wealthy as the United States,
more than 600,000 adults and children have no place to call their own on any
given night?
Having no place to call your own, living in a shelter,
staying at a relative’s house/apartment, or living in a tent in the woods has
no upside. Conditions are crowded, privacy does not exist, and living in a tent
when it’s raining and below freezing temperatures is something that few of us
can imagine what that must be like. With over 2,400 people falling into one or
more of these categories in Northwest Arkansas, the need for action is now and
the solutions while complicated, need to be developed and implemented so that
we change the face of poverty and homelessness in this bubble that we live in.
Homelesssness in Northwest Arkansas is the real deal! The facts are startling and real. @bigpittstop #NWArkCares

There is much to be concerned about when looking at a
graphic like this. What is missing in this graphic is the story behind those persons
who are unsheltered and living in unacceptable, unsafe, unsanitary, and
unhealthy conditions.
A real option for the homeless in Northwest Arkansas. What will you do? @bigpittstop #NWArkCaresThere will always be a group of individuals, who say that
they want to live outside, but when it’s raining/snowing and 20 degrees, do we
really believe that is where they WANT to be? Recognizing the importance of
addressing this critical alternative shelter need, cities around the country
(Eugene, Portland, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, etc.) have developed models for
temporary housing that is moving people out of their tents and into temporary
shelter. These shelters are not like the ones we typically think of as housing
homeless persons. Rather this movement has created micro-shelters (tiny homes)
that can often make the difference between life and death for some and for all,
provide a pathway out of the unsheltered circumstance they find themselves in.

The time to address this critical need in Northwest Arkansas
is NOW. We don’t have to invent the wheel, because these programs have been
tested and have met with considerable success around the country. What we need
is momentum…the kind of momentum that creates such a groundswell of support
with a voice that is loud enough to get local officials, service providers, and
a citizenry to listen.
So what can I do?

  • Write, call, text, FB post, Tweet your local
    leaders and ask them what are they doing for the unsheltered in our
    communities? 
  • Start a social media conversation among your NWA
    friends and followers…start posting on Facebook and Twitter
  • Create momentum for change. Get your congregations,
    non-profit partners, and local businesses talking about the needs and looking
    for support

The good news is that this is a problem that can be solved.
Through my professional connections, I have identified a local business that is
willing to donate materials, volunteers, and the funds needed to build these
micro-shelters. The only thing that is missing is a piece of property….but stay
tuned….

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Kevin Fitzpatrick, PhD is a professor of sociology and the
Jones Chair in Community and the Director of the Community and Family Institute
at the University of Arkansas. To find out more about what Dr. Fitzpatrick and
the CFI are doing in this region visit cfi.uark.edu.
This post is part of the #NWArkCares series by the
Northwest Arkansas Bloggers group. To view other posts, visit the Northwest
Arkansas Bloggers Pinterest Board or follow #NWArkCares through social media.