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City leaders in Harrison, Ark. addressing issues surrounding homelessness

Published: Oct. 25, 2021 at 5:32 PM CDT
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HARRISON, Ark. (KY3) - Complaints have been made by business owners neighboring the House of Hope, a homeless center in Harrison.

The center is located on East Stephenson Avenue. Several owners are upset about homeless individuals wandering along the streets and around businesses, which they believe is deterring customers.

Homelessness and panhandling have been a growing concern for the residents of Harrison. The city does not have a homeless shelter but does have several homeless individuals.

”It is just a problem, we have too many problem homeless people and we have too many panhandlers,” said Mayor Jerry Jackson. “The problem isn’t local homeless, it is people coming from other places who are the chronic homeless.”

Harrison does have a day center, however. The Harrison House of Hope provides support for those in need. It is open to the public Monday thru Friday, serving 60 people at a time. Roughly 25 people come in for daily support. In 2012, Boone County had 270 homeless individuals according to the House of Hope. That number is currently 390.

”We serve two hot meals a day, we serve the breakfast meal and the lunch meal,” explained executive director, William Tollett. “We work with housing placement for those that are homeless. So getting them off the streets into housing, or if they’re in housing keeping them in it and off the streets.”

They say there’s a lack of support across northern Arkansas, which is resulting in more homeless coming to Harrison for help.

”In fact when you leave Jonesboro, all the way to Rogers you only have one shelter, a small one in Mountain Home, that houses about eight to ten people I believe,” said Tollett.

Tollett explained that House of Hope is not an overnight shelter, and its funding grants only allow it to give those in need three nights of accommodations at a hotel.

“Our problem with the homelessness is not the local people, our problem is people from out of town and out of state that come here,” said Jackson. “We really don’t have the services to take care of people.”

Several owners share examples of defecating on neighboring property, sleeping on the premises, and intimidating customers.

”Some have expressed concern that their own customers are afraid to get out of their vehicles, especially if they see someone walking across the parking lot,” said Tollett.

Tollett has instructed all of his clients to walk within three feet of the side of the road, which is considered a part of the city-county easement. But several business owners say that’s not the case, an issue several would like to see resolved, but one with a solution that’s not easily found.

”We had local businesses that had concerns and we also had House of Hope,” said Jackson. “We had a meeting with House of Hope for the issues we had right now, and I think we had a really good meeting but the big problem still is the people that are coming here from out of town.”

Jackson said he doesn’t believe the city is capable of providing services necessary to house the homeless, so the best solution is to either prevent them from coming to Harrison or provide a way to transport them to a community with such capabilities.

The homeless situation is on the Harrison City Council agenda, for its next meeting Thursday, October 28. The meeting begins at 6 p.m.

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