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Next Step Homeless Services seeks new home in Fort Smith



Next Step Homeless Services (NSHS) has been based in downtown Fort Smith for more than 20 years.”Last year, we had a 76% success rate in our housing program. That means we had 88 people go through our program and 76% of them, when they left, had permanent housing,” said Sharon Chapman, executive director of the nonprofit organization.For the second time in just few months, NSHS is seeking approval for a new headquarters in the city. In February, NSHS pulled its request to relocate off Towson Avenue after people in nearby neighborhoods voiced their concerns.The new campus would be built on four acres of land northeast of the intersection at S. 6 Street and S. I Street. Initial plans call for building 30 – 40 micro homes, like what NWA New Beginnings built in Fayetteville to help address area homelessness.”You are in a space all to your own, you’re not sharing that space with someone else. So, you’re able to lock that door behind you and be safe and sound and not worry about behaviors or anything going on with people next to you. Which is really ideal for some of the homeless we work with who’ve had issues with trauma they’ve had throughout their lives,” Chapman said.To build it, NSHS is seeking approval to rezone the area from heavy industrial, to planned zoning. Planning Commission members approved the request, but city directors must give final approval before granting the request. According to minutes from previous planning commission meetings, business owners said they were concerned about safety issues with truck traffic and nearby trains and that businesses have already been dealing with negative effects of nearby homeless camps, including increases in thefts and break-ins.The proposed location is about half a mile from Hope Campus, which offers services and congregate / group sheltering to homeless residents in the city.City directors will hear from concerned business owners at a special study session Thursday night at 6 p.m. at the Blue Lion in downtown Fort Smith.”We can be sympathetic to what they’re dealing with and hope that the city and Hope Campus can work out any issues they have as far as security and things like that. That was before us, we’re not even there,” Chapman said. “As far as encampments around the area, we’re going to try and get some of those people into safe secure housing. It will be a very attractive facility. It’s going to be fenced. There’s not going to be any foot traffic because we’re not going to be having an emergency day shelter. We will be closing our emergency day shelter. And the only people who will be coming to our facility are our housing clients, the people living there or the people coming for an appointment.”

Next Step Homeless Services (NSHS) has been based in downtown Fort Smith for more than 20 years.

“Last year, we had a 76% success rate in our housing program. That means we had 88 people go through our program and 76% of them, when they left, had permanent housing,” said Sharon Chapman, executive director of the nonprofit organization.

For the second time in just few months, NSHS is seeking approval for a new headquarters in the city. In February, NSHS pulled its request to relocate off Towson Avenue after people in nearby neighborhoods voiced their concerns.

The new campus would be built on four acres of land northeast of the intersection at S. 6 Street and S. I Street. Initial plans call for building 30 – 40 micro homes, like what NWA New Beginnings built in Fayetteville to help address area homelessness.

“You are in a space all to your own, you’re not sharing that space with someone else. So, you’re able to lock that door behind you and be safe and sound and not worry about behaviors or anything going on with people next to you. Which is really ideal for some of the homeless we work with who’ve had issues with trauma they’ve had throughout their lives,” Chapman said.

To build it, NSHS is seeking approval to rezone the area from heavy industrial, to planned zoning. Planning Commission members approved the request, but city directors must give final approval before granting the request.

According to minutes from previous planning commission meetings, business owners said they were concerned about safety issues with truck traffic and nearby trains and that businesses have already been dealing with negative effects of nearby homeless camps, including increases in thefts and break-ins.

The proposed location is about half a mile from Hope Campus, which offers services and congregate / group sheltering to homeless residents in the city.

City directors will hear from concerned business owners at a special study session Thursday night at 6 p.m. at the Blue Lion in downtown Fort Smith.

“We can be sympathetic to what they’re dealing with and hope that the city and Hope Campus can work out any issues they have as far as security and things like that. That was before us, we’re not even there,” Chapman said. “As far as encampments around the area, we’re going to try and get some of those people into safe secure housing. It will be a very attractive facility. It’s going to be fenced. There’s not going to be any foot traffic because we’re not going to be having an emergency day shelter. We will be closing our emergency day shelter. And the only people who will be coming to our facility are our housing clients, the people living there or the people coming for an appointment.”



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