CONWAY, Ark – Conway is investing more into its homeless population, building its first 24-hour emergency shelter.
The Conway City Council unanimously approved the project Tuesday, partnering with CAPCA, a homeless outreach organization to help run the facility.
“We currently don’t have an overnight emergency shelter,” said City Community Development Administrator Shawanna Rodgers.
According to CAPCA, about 900 homeless adults and 600 homeless children live in Conway.
“I would say three years ago it was like half of that,” said CAPCA Executive Director Jennifer Welter.
Welter says homelessness is a growing problem in the city and is thankful leaders are taking a step to help the population.
The shelter will be built on Gum Street. It will be open during the day for everyone and at night for up to 40 people.
“Were looking to do day room services and case management,” Rodgers said.
The shelter will also have a place for people to take showers, do laundry, and gain internet access to search for jobs.
“It means so much to me and quite naturally to the rest of the universe,” Fonda Weeks said.
Weeks was living out of her car in Conway for about 10 months last year.
“[I was in a] 9-year abusive relationship and I packed my car up and I came to a place called Arkansas,” Weeks said.
Weeks says she was lucky to have a small shelter sleeping in her car. She says others who were homeless weren’t so blessed, braving the outside elements.
“I saw people. everyday walking past my vehicle, standing on the corners panhandling whatever to do to make it,” Weeks said.
Most shelters if open in cities will usually have a time limit on when folks can stay.
“It’s fantastic and wonderful because it does give them a warm place to sleep but then you’re right back out in the elements early in the morning and you can’t get back in until the evening,” said Welter.
Welter says the 24-hour service will provide an opportunity for many to stay warm all day long.
The shelter will be built on Gum Street in Conway and is expected to be open early 2023.