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FORT SMITH -- The Children's Emergency Shelter is set to begin work next week renovating a 24-unit apartment complex to provide independent living housing for foster children who are becoming adults.

A small crowd gathered Thursday on the parking lot of the complex at 1421 S. Dallas St. for a groundbreaking ceremony to kick off the project. Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas awarded a $240,000 Affordable Housing Program grant that was sponsored by Simmons Bank for the project.

"We are excited about being in this partnership," Federal Home Loan Bank Vice President Bruce Hatton said. "Collaboration is the key. Without collaboration, you can't get anything done."

The apartment complex property abuts the shelter property from the south. The shelter bought the apartments a few years ago for the independent living program, shelter Executive Director Jack Moffett said.

Moffett said the project will advance the shelter's Get Real 24 independent living housing program. The program will provide residents with life skills training to acclimate them to adult life.

Skills training will be provided by individuals in the community with expertise in such things as personal finance, health care and keeping a home -- "all the things they didn't learn from their parents because they have been in [foster] care," Moffett said.

Work on some of the apartments has begun already, Moffett said. Heat and air units have been installed on nine of the units in preparation for construction work beginning next week. He said he hoped the work would be completed by the end of the year.

The construction will be done by Trinity Multifamily, which manages the apartment property, Moffett said.

Children's Emergency Shelter, which opened in 1997, serves children ages 6-17 who have been removed from their homes by the Arkansas Department of Human Services because of neglect and/or abuse. The shelter provides a safe and structured home-like environment, tutoring, counseling and life skills training, according to its website.

State Desk on 04/19/2019

Print Headline: Work set to start on teen foster complex


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