HOPE Campus began as a coordinated effort between the Homelessness Task Force and City of Fort Smith to address homelessness in the River Valley. In 2009, the Fort Smith Board of Directors saw an increase in the number of homeless individuals in the community; they assembled the Homelessness Task Force. It was implemented to gather data that would be used to help guide the City of Fort Smith to assist those in need. The desire of the Homelessness Task Force and City of Fort Smith was to assist the impoverished toward a path of 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. The Campus Model is one that 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 (2010-2013) that the Homelessness Task Force dissolved, and it was replaced by the Old Fort Homeless Coalition–a team of Fort Smith organizations committed to ending homelessness and bettering the lives of impoverished residents. The Old Fort Homeless Coalition immediately began raising funds to make HOPE Campus a reality.
From 2013-2016, the Old Fort Homeless Coalition received several grants that were designated for purchasing and renovating the property at 301 S. E Street. Grants received:
- Federal Home Loan Bank’s Affordable Housing Program Grant for $500,000 (2013, renewed in 2015)
- City of Fort Smith’s Community Development Block Grant for $600,000 (2015)
- Maybee Grant for $500,000 (2016).
Eight years after its inception, HOPE Campus is an independent 501(c)3 organization serving the impoverished residents of the River Valley with a wide range of services.
Included in the HOPE Campus facility is a dormitory, men’s and women’s showers, kitchen, cafeteria, barber shop, laundry room, library, community room, classroom, dog kennel, 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 thanks to the commitment of the Fort Smith Board of Directors, the Homelessness Task Force, and the Old Fort Homeless Coalition. The doors are now open, and hope has arrived!