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Ark-La-Tex In-Depth: Helping the Homeless - KTBS.com - Shreveport, LA News, Weather and Sports

Ark-La-Tex In-Depth: Helping the Homeless

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Texarkana, Arkansas -

Across the nation and here in the Ark-La-Tex homelessness is down and it's all thanks in part to a program started a couple of years ago that helps those facing eviction or homeless with rent assistance.
    
Is the decrease in the number of people living on the streets a misleading trend or is the program really working?

Before arriving at the Salvation Army, William Joseph Butler was living on the streets.
    
He says the center helped him get back on his feet.

First, he got a job and then they helped him with rental assistance.  
    
Butler has been living in an apartment complex for 6-months.
    
He still goes to the Salvation Army, but now he just visits for chapel service.
    
Butler says everything in his life changed when he qualified for the utility and rental assistance.

"The idea of the program is for you to become self-sufficient and be a contributor to society," said Butler.

In an effort to end homelessness, in 2010, federal money was granted to start the rent assistance program, but that program has since ended.  
    
Now through state funds, the Salvation Army provides utility and rental assistance to dozens of homeless families in Texas and Arkansas.
    
Lt. Jimmy Parrish says this year nearly 130 homeless people were placed in homes on both the Texas and Arkansas-side.

The program provides payment for the first month's rent.

"We see that the stability is starting to come that they are not coming back to the homeless shelters," said Lt. Parrish.
    
Results from a recent homeless count show the program is working.
    
The number of homeless people estimated to be living in Texarkana declined from 432 last year to 366 this year.  
    
More than 41 percent of the homeless population surveyed have full time, part time or temporary employment.  
    
There were also about 15 families reported as homeless with an average of two children per family.

"I think it's a good trend in that we are having housing programs, people are getting back into homes, finding jobs and stabilizing their families," said Lt. Parrish.
 
However, he says some of the numbers can be misleading.
    
For every homeless person surveyed, Parrish says there's about ten they don't find.
    
While the salvation army office is location in Texarkana, Arkansas, they serve five counties in Arkansas and two in Texas.
    
Starting next year, Lt. Parrish says they'll only be able to provide rental assistance to the homeless population on the Arkansas-side.

Randy Sams' Outreach Center in Texarkana, Texas also provides rental assistance.

This year, they've been able to help about 200 people with the state funded grant.
    
That's a total of nearly $26,000 in rent assistance.
    
The program runs runs from October to June.
    
All those accepted into the program must meet income requirements, be a Bowie resident, and show an eviction notice or be homeless.

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