Little Rock residents experiencing various forms of homelessness are an underserved population of the city, especially in the Ward 1 area. Dating back well into the 90’s and beyond the city has built a reputation for treating these residents inhumanly.
This has to change for the city to move forward. We must work to raise the quality of life for all citizens of Little Rock, and that starts with the least fortunate. As City Director I want to make Ward 1 an example for the rest of the state and region on how we can compassionately care for individuals experiencing homelessness.
Empowering Strong Organizations
We have great organizations who are passionate about the work they do with the homeless. Groups like the Van, Harmony Health, Our House, Jericho Way, and others. As a city, we need to lean on these organizations to do what they do best instead of continuously hinder the progress they make.
This starts with building an overall vision and direction for how we address all levels of homelessness, allowing organizations to operate without impediment, taking a service first approach to homelessness with our police, and providing long-term, stable funding for organizations so they are not constantly in fear of budget cuts from the city.
Leniency on Ordinances and Zoning
Not every rule can be cut and dry, especially when dealing with folks who have very little. As a city, we need to first commit to only evicting homeless camps as an absolute last resort, and only if the property owner requests assistance. The process of eviction causes far more harm than good.
Additionally, we need to have a compassionate approach to changing zoning and granting variances for organizations looking to build support areas for unsheltered individuals. Allowing organizations to set up campsites or resources for unsheltered citizens allows them to transition into a more stable living situation.
Progressive Housing and Shelter Options
Our residents need safe and secure living conditions in order to overcome the issues they are facing. We need progressive housing options that allow individuals to transition from unsheltered into a stable affordable housing situation.
This starts by allowing temporary campsites, free emergency shelters, access to resources like laundry and showers, and low-cost permanent options once they reach a stable situation. Some of this will need to be city supported, but a lot of it can be built through private and non-profit partnerships.
We need to provide stable work environments for individuals attempting to overcome homelessness. As a city, we can prioritize the hiring of these individuals for city resource jobs to help provide an immediate source of income and a chance at benefits.
Secondly, we need to work with non-profit organizations to expand workforce training options for individuals attempting to overcome a homeless situation, with job placement opportunities.
Finally, we need to work with private businesses to offer opportunities for individuals attempting to overcome homelessness with a network of jobs available, placement opportunities, and tax incentives to encourage participation.