Harrison Opening It’s First Homeless Shelter

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HARRISON, Ark.–The City of Harrison, Arkansas, like many other communities in the Ozarks, has a big problem with homelessness.

It’s something community members there, see every day. So, they’re taking a different approach to fixing the problem.

They’re turning an old church daycare into a homeless shelter. And, they’re hoping you’ll help them, along the way.

Dolly Garrison is the President of “House of Hope”– a homeless day center in Harrison.

2 1/2 years ago, she,  alongside many others, including Shirley Smothers, got together and came up with an approach to the homeless problem in their community– a transitional housing development for women and children. 

It’s a shelter, called Hope Cottages. Garrison says, “It’s taken a long time. It’s a lot of work. But, we are so proud of where we are right now.”

Smothers is currently the homeless liaison for the Harrison School District.

Smothers said, “I think it’s a good idea for us to have a start on addressing it.”

She works with homeless children every day. Smothers says, “Students that aren’t housed have a harder time in school and learning. That’s our goal,  is to help students learn and have a safe place to stay at night,  so they can come back the next day and be ready to learn again.”

She says it’s hard for students to maintain a good academic path when they don’t have a stable living situation at home.

“A student that has to move, that’s considered homeless, every time they move from district to district, they can lose up to 6 months of education.”

Hope Cottages will give families three months in a stable housing environment.

Enough time for them to find guidance, through classes and support from local churches and individuals.

Smothers said, “We’re gonna be able to help them find jobs. Find adequate housing. Help them get hooked up with medical care, counseling services. They’ll get parenting classes.”

Garrison says, “Our churches have agreed that once the three months is up, they will follow these families for up to a year.”

Basically, they’ll do whatever it takes to help them stay in one location. And ultimately,  become a productive member of the Harrison community.

The best thing– Hope Cottages is free to those being helped.

Smothers says, “It’s really hard when you’re in a homeless situation to get back on your feet again without some help.”

Garrison says,  “They usually don’t have any support system from family or friends. And, a lot of them have burned all their bridges for support.”

The development is possible thanks to a community block grant from the City of Harrison for $86,000.

On their own, so far, they’ve raised $16,000 in donations from the community. An anonymous donor is willing to donate $50,000 once they’ve raised $50,000 on their own. The plan is to turn the old daycare building into 8 units to house families.

They hope to start remodeling in 2018. Fundraising is currently underway. 

Download information on an upcoming fundraiser here:

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