Nonprofits play pivotal role in helping homeless

By Brooke Buckner
Delta Digital News Service

JONESBORO — Nonprofits provide resources for the increasing homeless community.

The Salvation Army is the only homeless shelter in Jonesboro, but there are many other resources for the homeless.

United Way of Northeast Arkansas and The Hub help the homeless community, but don’t house them.

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Nanette Heard and Shaila Creekmore at United Way of NEA. (photo by Brooke Buckner)

United Way helps the working people and serves eight counties. They provide a backpack program for kids in need of food with the Food Bank of Northeast Arkansas and fund a program called Homeless to Self-Sufficient with Mission Outreach of Northeast Arkansas.

Nanette Heard, executive director of United Way, said, “A lot of what we do is raise funds for programs. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of shelters in our area.”

UWNA helps people get back to work by providing work clothing, boots, childcare and transportation. Most of their programs are geared toward kids.

Gwendolyn Zugarek, executive director of The Hub, said the 2-year-old resource center provides a 90-day program for the homeless. The first step to helping people is tracking down their birth certificate or getting them an ID so that they can move forward from there.

HUB“The main thing that we do is we sit down with our guests and we talk to them about what is going on in their life,” Zugarek said.

The Hub offers a bike program allowing guests who don’t have transportation to ride a bike to their job. The guest’s responsibility is to buy the bike lock.

Currently, the Hub is a community-funded organization. They usually see an estimated 40 new homeless individuals every month and they helped 532 individuals in their first year of being open. Their mail center helps the less fortunate receive benefits.

Shelters Outside of Jonesboro

Shelters in Blytheville and Paragould provide help year-round for the homeless.

Blytheville’s Mississippi Union County Mission helps women, children and men. Most of the children who come in are 17 to 18 years of age. The majority of residents are single.

There’s no time restraint for living at the Mission, but the average time is three to four months.

Mission Outreach of Northeast Arkansas in Paragould takes all ages and people can live there for up to two years. Director Cheri Peters said she sees more single people coming into the shelter. In 2018, Mission Outreach of NEA provided shelter for 452 people.

The Mission houses 55 and Mission Outreach houses 58 people. Both of these shelters house increasing numbers during the winter and summer.

In addition to housing and feeding residents, Mission Outreach helps residents with birth certificates, employment and insurance.

Lisa Willard, executive director of The Mission, said they offer a work program consisting of yard work or odd jobs. The charge for the community is $10 per hour and the workers get paid $8.50 per hour.

Similarly, Mission Outreach offers jobs and provides transportation for their working residents like United Way does.

Both of these shelters feed the less fortunate by serving food boxes. The Mission serves 100 food boxes per week.

Mission Outreach’s food pantry feeds low-to-moderate income families. These families can come once a month to get food boxes. They also have a soup kitchen that prepares three meals per day.

“For the food box, you have to be a Greene County resident,” Peters said.

Willard and Peters said they enjoy working at these shelters because they watch lives transform.

The community can help each of these organizations by volunteering or donating toiletry items, canned goods, blankets and furniture.

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