The HOPE Campus began as a coordinated effort on behalf of the Homelessness Task Force and the City of Fort Smith to address homelessness in the River Valley. In 2009, when the Fort Smith Board of Directors saw an increase in the number of homeless individuals in the community, they assembled the Homelessness Task Force, which was implemented to gather data that would be used to help guide the City of Fort Smith to assist those in need. Among the top priorities of the Homelessness Task Force and the City of Fort Smith was to assist impoverished community members toward a path to self-sufficiency. This was the first seed of the HOPE Campus.
Research was compiled and presented to the Fort Smith Board of Directors on March 30, 2010. The City then passed a resolution supporting the development of a Campus Model approach, a model which has been well-researched and has a high rate of success in homeless prevention and management. Over the course of several years the Homelessness Task Force compiled further data to determine where the campus should be located and what services should be offered. It was during this time from 2010-2013 that the Homelessness Task Force dissolved and was replaced by the Old Fort Homeless Coalition, a team of Fort Smith organizations who are committed to ending homelessness and bettering the lives of impoverished residents. The Old Fort Homeless Coalition immediately began raising funds to make the Riverview HOPE Campus a reality.
From 2013-2016 the Old Fort Homeless Coalition received several grants that were put towards purchasing and renovating the property at 301 S. E Street, the then future home of the HOPE Campus. Grants received include the Federal Home Loan Bank’s Affordable Housing Program Grant in 2013 for $500,000 (which was renewed in 2015), the City of Fort Smith’s Community Development Block Grant in 2015 for $600,000, and the Maybee Grant in 2016 for $500,000.
Now, eight years after its inception, the HOPE Campus is an independent 501(c)3 organization serving the impoverished residents of the River Valley with a wide range of services including shelter, meals, education, medical attention, and counseling.
Included in the $3.5 million HOPE Campus facility is a dormitory, men’s and women’s showers, kitchen, cafeteria, barber shop, laundry room, library, community room, classroom, dog kennel, dentist office, and a full-service medical clinic provided by Mercy Fort Smith. Offering so many services under one roof increases an individual’s likelihood of gaining self-sufficiency. It’s help for today, and hope for tomorrow.
The seed that was planted in 2009 grew. And it grew thanks to the commitment of community leaders such as Fort Smith’s Board of Directors, the Homelessness Task Force, and the Old Fort Homeless Coalition, without whom the HOPE Campus would not be possible. The doors are now open, and hope has arrived.