Each day, Next Step Homeless Services sees as many as 150 clients who are either homeless or about to be. In 2017, they assisted 1,427 homeless men, women and children at the dayroom and averaged 450 clients each month. The United Way Community Partner non-profit provides help including hot lunches on weekdays, a place to receive mail and make phone calls, case management tailored to each client, job counseling, job referrals, and housing assistance. Do South® spoke with Executive Director Kim Wohlford about their mission.
DS: What does having a hot meal each weekday mean to your clients?
Kim: We served over 23,000 meals in our soup kitchen in 2017 with the help of many volunteers! The meals are a matter of survival for many. This is also a time when our professional case managers check in with clients to see how they’re doing, schedule counseling, offer hygiene items and ask if they need specific assistance.
DS: What about the housing Next Step provides?
Kim: We provide emergency shelter during the day. We have transitional housing, where clients can literally take that “next step” towards self-sufficiency. In our transitional housing program, clients apply, are screened and selected to live in these residences for up to 6 months. They must agree to live drug and alcohol-free, obtain employment or disability benefits, and save 80% of their income until graduation from the program. In return, we provide 100% of their living expenses, including groceries. We furnish counseling and case management several times per week. This program began in 2006, with the 8-bedroom Gabriel House for men. With the help of a Community Development Block Grant from the city, we were able to open Esther House in 2009, a 7-bedroom home for women and children. In 2012, (again with grants and community support), we opened the 16-bedroom Buddy Smith House, focusing on homeless veterans.
In November 2017, Next Step purchased a duplex, and our first family moved in at Christmas. In April 2017, we secured additional CDBG funding to build two single-family homes. We’re working with the Fort Smith Housing Authority and Affordable Construction who’ve helped us find the most affordable, quality construction. In January, we began construction on both two-bedroom, one-bath homes. In March, we’ll break ground on the first single, transitional residence for a homeless veteran, due to a generous donation of David Dillmeier, CEO of Dillmeier Glass, and additional monies provided by community leaders and donors. The house will be named for David’s late father-in-law, Korean War veteran Jack Bradley.
DS: How can our readers help?
Kim: We need all the household items you’d need when moving to a new home, volunteers for minor home repairs for our older homes, volunteers to serve meals, or to provide food or meals. Call us at 479.252.5100 or 479.782.5433.
123 North 6th Street, Suite 200
Fort Smith, AR 72901
Next month, we’ll showcase another worthy charity in our area. If you have a non-profit you’d like to see recognized, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.