FAYETTEVILLE -- Money from the federal government for coronavirus relief in the city is set to go toward bringing resources to residents experiencing homelessness, buying and delivering food, hiring medical professionals to assist programs and other efforts.
The city's Community Resources Division hosted an online public hearing Wednesday to get feedback and answer questions on the proposed spending of $436,285 in Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act money. Seven agencies would receive a total of $197,722, with the balance of $238,563 going to a city-led program providing rent and bill assistance to residents who apply.
The awarded amounts are subject to approval from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Yolanda Fields, the city's community resources director, said she hopes to get approval within the next few weeks. Once that happens, the city will be able to take applications for residents to receive rent and bill assistance because of hardship faced from the covid-19 pandemic, Fields said.
The allocations were based on what each organization requested, Fields said. A few didn't make the cut because their requests fell outside the scope of the criteria or there were issues with the application, she said.
Including Fayetteville's portion, Community Development Block Grant programs in Northwest Arkansas received more than $1.1 million in coronavirus relief money.
The largest allocation, $85,470, would go to 7 Hills Homeless Center. The center plans to partner with the Salvation Army and New Beginnings to establish a safe, temporary camp south of the Walker Family Residential Community near 15th Street.
People experiencing homelessness typically have to travel to get a meal or a shower or to meet with a case manager, among other essential needs, said Jessica Andrews, 7 Hills chief executive officer. The hope is to bring those services to a camp on 13 acres of city land, she said.
People across the world have been told to stay home if possible and frequently wash their hands. That's impossible to do if someone doesn't have a home or running water, Andrews said. The site will have showers and portable restrooms, with camper kits made available and a medical professional and case managers frequently visiting, she said.
"This is a public health response. That's what this camp is. And it is temporary," Andrews said. "But it does raise the larger question of, when this is done, where do people go?"
The 7 Hills day center has been open two days a week, as opposed to five, and many other service organizations have scaled back operations to prevent the spread of covid-19.
The $33,302 Seeds That Feed is set to receive will cover operational costs, buying equipment and hiring extra help during the pandemic, said Margaret Thomas, "chief feeder" with the organization. For instance, a trailer is desperately needed to haul the stations with produce that can be seen around town in places such as Hillcrest Towers.
"It's things we need to make sure we can get the food when it's available out as soon as possible," Thomas said.
The nonprofit organization takes donated food from farms and restaurants and distributes it to needy communities. In light of the pandemic, volunteers began delivering food from the Fayetteville Farmers Market to residents. Seeds That Feed also helps pop-up pantries that have emerged and delivers bread from Rockin' Baker.
St. James Missionary Baptist Church needs to expand its capacity, Ministry Leader Monique Jones said. The food pantry needs a freezer to store produce, and there aren't always enough boxes to package deliveries to people experiencing food insecurity, she said.
The $30,000 the church is set to receive will go a long way in purchasing food. Jones said the pantry has been serving about 200 individuals per week, many of whom take the food back to their families.
"We're running out of food every single time we open up," she said. "We are using every single dime to purchase food, and every time we open the pantry, we are using every single piece of food or canned good we've purchased. By the end of the day, we are completely out."
Gwynne Gert joined the online meeting via Zoom and praised the amounts set to be given to Magdalene Serenity House and 7 Hills Homeless Center. Gert said she started volunteering at Magdalene about a year and a half ago.
"I've just seen such absolutely amazing things happening to women who have come directly from prison, who have just literally changed their lives, and it's been because of Magdalene Serenity House," she said.
The two-year residential program helps women who have experienced trauma, sexual exploitation, addiction and incarceration, according to its website. The $8,750 granted from the coronavirus program would help provide essential supportive services to participants who lost a job because of the pandemic.
Fayetteville proposed coronavirus relief
• $85,470: 7 Hills Homeless Center to pay a portion of the costs to provide a temporary location where unsheltered people can camp and receive essential services to help prevent the spread of covid-19.
• $33,302: Seeds That Feed for provision and delivery of fresh and healthy food to covid-19 pop-up pantries and directly to vulnerable residents.
• $30,000: St. James Missionary Baptist Church to provide assistance to those impacted by covid-19 through the food pantry and mobile pantry.
• $18,000: Donald W. Reynolds Boys & Girls Club to hire a medical professional to assist in taking cautionary health measures in response to covid-19 and more safely resume the child care program.
• $17,200: WelcomeHealth for a portion of the costs for responding to covid-19, including screening, telemedicine and medical staff.
• $8,750: Magdalene Serenity House for a portion of the cost for a support specialist to provide essential services to residents who have lost employment because of covid-19.
• $5,000: Peace at Home Family Shelter where social distancing requirements have greatly reduced shelter capacity. Aid will allow the shelter to place people escaping domestic violence into a safe hotel.
• $238,563: A city-led program for residents to apply for rent and bill assistance because of hardship faced from covid-19.
Source: Fayetteville Community Resources Division
NW News on 05/22/2020