Once again the homeless population of Little Rock ends up with the short end of the stick with this past week's announcement that the local chapter of the Interfaith Hospitality Network has run out of money, and will discontinue providing temporary housing for homeless families.
For those unfamiliar with this agency which is part of a national network, it is comprised of nineteen area churches which offer housing, meals and transportation to 14 people for one week on a rotational basis among these participating churches, and has been in operation for approximately five years. One church, First Presbyterian in downtown Little Rock, even offers access to laundry machines for washing clothes and computers to assist the homeless in finding job opportunities. While part of a national organization, they basically operate independently and are, therefore, responsible for securing their own financial support from local churches, corporations and individuals. Apparently, that effort has been negatively impacted by the down economy in recent months, as donations have fallen drastically.
All of that aside, this latest withdrawal of services for the homeless once again illustrates the need for the City of Little Rock to quit jawboning the issue of providing a shelter for the homeless and do something now. Yes, I know the City is in dire financial straits even having to defer once again the raises promised our union employees last year, plus shifting $1.3 million in funds from the street reserve fund to help make up the latest $2 million shortfall. But that does not excuse the inertia that has existed relative to building a homeless resource center for almost a decade when the City hosted with great fanfare a visit by HUD's homeless point man from Washington DC that generated great enthusiasm for doing something meaningful here. That enthusiasm then went flat for lack of active follow-up, save the formation of a homeless committee which drafted a 10 year plan to fight "chronic homelessness" which had its own unique definition. That committee then morphed into the Mayor's Commission on Homelessness which has basically just talked about the problem ever since.
While lack of money always seems to be the reason for inaction, it never seems to stop other initiatives like entertainment arenas, baseball parks, football stadiums, libraries, trolleys, pedestrian bridges, railway bridge renovations, downtown riverfront improvements, etc., all of which were deemed to be important economic drivers for the city. One common element in all of those efforts was strong leadership by local influential businessmen who joined together with our politicians to find the necessary resources to ensure success. Sadly, those same businessmen appear to be AWOL from the homeless issue which not only speaks to the soul of a community, but can affect things they do understand like image and tourism if not solved. So, my challenge to that power structure is to step forward and make this happen even if it requires supporting a new sales tax to provide the funds to not only build and operate the homeless shelter but to also give Little Rock the sorely needed capital to address our many other needs. Let's not let the homeless get short-changed again, as we're better than that in my view.
Laura Raborn at http://paintingsofhome.com and http://claygifts.com
Jim Johnson at http://yessy.com/jimjohnson/gallery.html
Russ Powell at http://powellphotos.com
Linda Flake at http://lindaflake.com
Tom Herrin at http://tommysart.blogspot.com
Matt McLeod at http://firstname.lastname@example.org
Artists Registry at http://www.arkansasarts.org/programs/registry/default.aspx
Barry Thomas exclusively at Ellen Golden French Antiques in the Heights
Local Colour Gallery at http://localcolourgallery.com
Chroma Gallery at http://chromagallery.com
Cantrell Gallery at http://cantrellgallery.com
Greg Thompson Fine Art at http://gregthompsonfineart.com