Homeless families will have the opportunity to receive transitional housing thanks to Next Step Homeless Services in Fort Smith.
Kim Wohlford, Next Step's executive director, said construction of the first of two transitional houses for homeless families should be completed at the end of April. Located at 2109 Wirsing Ave. in Fort Smith, the groundbreaking for the project took place at the end of January.
Wohlford said transitional houses for homeless families is a new step for the organization.
"We don't have one in Fort Smith," Wohlford said. "There are no agencies providing single-family residences for homeless families currently. There are some apartment-type dwellings, and some multiple family units, but not a single-family residence."
Wohlford said she applied for a Community Development Block Grant last year for the organization. Next Step was recommended for more than $173,000 for transitional housing.
The two transitional houses for homeless families will have two bedrooms, one bathroom and about 1,000 square feet heated, Wohlford said. Ground has not been broken on the second house yet, which will be at 606 N. 12th St.
"So we're building those two homes for families, and we've also purchased a duplex that is for homeless families," Wohlford said. "We will be providing space for ... four homeless families in transitional housing. We're also getting ready to break ground for a ... single transitional house for a homeless veteran and his or her family."
Brittney Drost, a case manager for housing for Next Step, said transitional housing is not considered permanent housing.
"It's time-limited, so what we do with folks is ... once they're accepted into our programs, typically, we put a time limit of about six months," Drost said. "During those six months, we offer case management support. We connect them with resources, we may refer them to outside agencies depending on what the family's needs are. ... Essentially, what we do is we set them up with the steps and resources they need to get into permanent housing because, for whatever reason, this family has been unable to secure permanent housing."
Next Step considers all of its programs at-will, which means a family could leave the transitional houses early if they so choose, Drost said. If the organization feels that the family needs slightly more time, it may extend the period in which the family can stay.
"It just would have to be extenuating circumstances," Drost said.
Wohlford said among the requirements for families looking to live in the new transitional houses are that they need to be homeless and either have a job or a disability payment-type income set up that prevents them from working. Next Step wants them to eventually be able to pay for their way, which Wohlford defined as getting used to having income so, when they get out on their own and get permanent housing, they can pay for expenses such as rent, utility bills and their own food.
"All the things we will provide them initially, they have to be able to have the funds, and we do a lot of financial budgeting with them, financial counseling," Wohlford said. "There's just a lot of ... mentoring and counseling that will go on."