Fayetteville Takes Steps to Control Veteran Homelessness

By Erin McGuinness

The Razorback Reporter

Fayetteville is taking steps to permanently control, or end, homelessness among veterans in the city, a feat that Mayor Lioneld Jordan said in 2014 he thought could be achieved by 2015.

That goal was an outgrowth of President Barack Obama’s goal to end homelessness among veterans. In “Opening Doors,” cities throughout the country were asked to join the effort to end homelessness among veterans by 2015, a challenge that Jordan accepted.

While the administration did not meet the goal, the number of homeless veterans nationally steadily declined by 47 percent between 2010 and 2016, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. But in northwest Arkansas, the number of homeless veterans increased, according to data collected by Kevin Fitzpatrick, UA sociology professor and Community and Family Institute director. 

Brian McAnally, Health Care for Homeless Veterans manager, works with homeless veterans throughout northwest Arkansas. 

“The VA has poured lots of resources into our area because we are one of the only areas where the homelessness is actually growing,” McAnally said, citing the growth in northwest Arkansas economy and the highly regarded VA hospital in Fayetteville as attractive to veterans. 

There are approximately 195 homeless veterans in Fayetteville, including those in permanent housing, Fitzpatrick said. Approximately 60 are without housing services, living in emergency shelters, the woods, with friends and in other temporary situations. 

The city’s goal is to reach functional zero, the point when more housing units are secured than the number of homeless veterans in need, said Yolanda Fields, Community Resources director for Fayetteville.

Fields runs the city’s Hearth program, a service that aims to provide transitional or permanent housing for the homeless in Fayetteville. 

“Once you have more units on an average than you have homeless, you have reached functional zero because you can house everybody that is homeless,” Fields said. “Ending homelessness,” is something that is not achievable, she said.

Once the goal is reached, people who become homeless, or homeless people who move to the area, can be housed, she said. 

The city is working with the Center for Community Care to list all of the homeless persons in Fayetteville, their needs and how they can be helped. The platform is called Hark and serves two purposes – as a data base and as a hub for homeless people and others to find service providers including healthcare and shelter.

The Center for Community Care began in September 2016, said Ben Cashion, director of content and training for Hark at the Center for Community Care. The organization was approached by the Continuum of Care in November about a need for a list of homeless people in northwest Arkansas. Through this, multiple homeless shelters in the area that often serve the same homeless people can coordinate their data, and the number of homeless people can be tracked. The data is being collected and should be available in less than a year, Cashion said. 

When the mayor joined the effort to end veteran homelessness in Fayetteville by 2015, “the goal for collaborating with area service and resource agencies to raise awareness and come up with a plan was an attainable goal,” Donnie Osborn, assistant to the mayor said via email.  

Fields hopes Fayetteville can reach functional zero among veterans by the end of the year, she said. 

Health Center Offers Access, Close Proximity for Student Veterans

Primary Care Services Provided By Pat Walker

By Alex Nicoll

The Razorback Reporter

The Pat Walker Health Center could offer more convenient and immediate service for student veterans who are seeking care than other medical providers in the community, the center executive director said.

Mary Alice Serafini, executive director of Pat Walker, said she thinks that student veterans would choose the health center over the Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks hospital  

because the convenience of being on campus allows students to build relationships with medical providers.

“Real often in medical or counseling, once a relationship is established, that sometimes can be helpful for a student to know who you are going to see and how you are going to interact and those kinds of things,” Serafini said.

All services provided by the health center are offered to all students, including student veterans, Serafini said.

“The one that people probably know the most about is primary health care,” Serafini said. “For some veterans, it makes sense to use us; for other veterans, it makes sense to use the VA or other providers in the community. It depends on their circumstances.”

The health center provides outpatient care, which means patients can leave the center after they receive help and do not have to stay the night, according to the center’s website. Some examples of this care include dealing with acute care injuries, chronic care injuries and illnesses and providing a treatment room where patients can get cuts sewn up and casts for broken bones.

The center does not provide emergency services, she said.

“We would like for them to go straight to the ER and not stop here because it would delay care,” Serafini said.

Student veterans, like other students, pay the UA health fee of $7.25 per credit hour. Coupled with veterans probably being insured by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, that credit hour fee means “using medical services here is usually straight forward,” Serafini said.

Some of the staff at the center have more experience dealing with veterans than others, including medical providers and individuals on the nursing and laboratory staff, Serafini said.

“That expertise is always appreciated,” she said.

One service the center does not offer is any form of physical therapy treatment, Serafini said.

“We’ve explored having physical therapy here, but it’s not practical,” she said. “Physical therapists come to us and would love to be a part of Pat Walker, but when they look at how it would work financially for them, they don’t see it very inviting.”

If there is a service a student needs, but the center cannot provide, physicians at the center can refer students to “people we know can help with them with their assistance,” she said.

The health center is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday and Friday, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

“Our whole point for (student veterans) is to know that we are accessible,” Serafini said.


Mexicans Abroad May Vote in 2018 Home Elections

By Andrea Johnson

The Razorback Reporter

Mexicans who have valid identification may be eligible to vote in Mexico’s federal and local elections in July 2018 even while living abroad, officials said. For some UA students from Mexico, the process appears confusing, according to interviews.

Sophomore Guillermo Miranda knows he can vote in Mexico’s upcoming elections and would like to get involved, but a lack of information for how to do so prevents him from pursuing those interests, he said. Born in Santiago de Querétaro, Mexico, Guillermo moved to the U.S. at age 14 and is in the process of becoming a U.S. citizen.

“I really want to be involved (in the U.S.) because this is the culture I live in, and it’s the culture that has given me so many opportunities,” Miranda said. “But in the same way, I was born and basically raised in Mexico, so I also want to be involved in Mexican politics and be able to choose who represents our people here and in Mexico.”

Mexican voter registration opened Sept. 1 and will close March 31, according to the Instituto Nacional Electoral. The INE serves as Mexico’s autonomous body that administers elections throughout the country.

INE officials invited Xavier Medina Vidal, the Diane D. Blair professor of Latino Studies and an assistant professor of political science, to their forum, “The Mexican Diaspora and the Vote of Mexicans Living in the United States,” Aug. 15-16 in Mexico City.

Medina Vidal gave insight concerning how to better involve Mexicans abroad in transnational politics, he said. He defined the Mexican diaspora as those living away from their ancestral homeland.

“It implies there’s a disconnection, which is a physical one like the border, and the diaspora tends to form its own identity that is tied to Mexico but is unique in certain ways,” Medina Vidal said.

Though he was born in the state of New Mexico, Medina Vidal “grew up on both sides of the border” because his mother’s side of the family is from Mexico, he said. At the forum, he brought the perspective of a U.S.-born person who identifies as Mexican.

“That’s kind of the perspective that’s been missing historically in Mexican-American relations,” Medina Vidal said.

Medina Vidal served as one of three political scientists from the U.S. at the forum who discussed political behaviors, ideologies and media use of the Mexican diaspora. All could determine the level of interest in the 2018 elections, he said. Other officials representing fields such as economics, anthropology and economics also weighed in on how to engage Mexicans abroad.

For senior Soledad Huaracha, the complexity of the voting process and a distrust in recent political leaders in Mexico and in the U.S., discourages her from participating in politics, she said. Born and raised in Durango, Mexico, Huaracha moved to the U.S. at age 24 and has lived in the U.S. for 28 years.

Before her brother died, she discussed politics with him because he worked as a professor in Mexico, Huaracha said. She had lacked political information from Mexico since his death but began discussing politics again after she enrolled in Medina Vidal’s Latino Politics course.

Those with a valid Mexican identification card may register online and if approved, they will receive a Postal Electoral Package by mail. The package will include instructions for voting, information about candidates and electoral ballots.

Medina Vidal advised those seeking information to go to the INE website and contact officials at the Consulate of Mexico in Little Rock, he said. Consulate officials travel around the state, and some will be in Northwest Arkansas Sept. 15 at the Mexican Independence Day celebration in downtown Springdale.

Participation in politics among the Mexican diaspora has been low in past Mexican elections, Medina Vidal said. He strives to educate students in his classes of political issues abroad and reminds Mexicans in the U.S. that their voices can be heard across borders.

A version of this article appeared in the Sept. 13 edition of The Arkansas Traveler.

7hills Homeless Center Extends Outreach to Veterans

By Veronica Torres

The Razorback Reporter

Veterans who served active military duty and need assistance in getting temporary housing can turn to 7hills Homeless Center in Fayetteville.

The 16-year-old non-profit organization has goals of “ending homelessness and poverty with education, opportunities and hope,” according to the website.

“The ultimate goal is to develop a continuum of services and housing programs that will allow us to assist all clients and families, no matter their individual challenges and life circumstances,” according to 7hillscenter.org.

Beyond that goal, 7hills staff work with veterans in Washington, Benton and Madison counties.

Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) is aimed to promote housing among low-income and veteran families. The idea is to assist veterans and veterans’ families in transitioning to permanent housing, according to 7hillscenter.org.

SSVF offers short-term services for veterans, including case management, moving and storage costs maximum of three months, short-term rent assistance and/or arrears, short-term utility assistance and/or arrears, housing search assistance, security deposit once per two years, utility deposits once per three-year period, money management skills, job readiness assistance, childcare, community referrals, assistance obtaining public benefits and emergency supplies, according to 7hillscenter.org.

Seven Hills services are different for each individual.

“Homelessness is a really unique situation,” said Steven Mills, chief operating officer for the 7hills Homeless Center in Fayetteville, Arkansas. “Most of the homeless individuals don’t want to be homeless.”

There are eligibility requirements for the SSVF program. They must be from a veteran household, either being a veteran or a household where the head of household, or the spouse of the head of household, is a veteran. The veteran must have served in active military, naval, or air force and was discharged or released under non-dishonorable conditions. They must have very low-income meaning it would not exceed 50 percent of area median pre-tax income. And they must occupy permanent housing, meaning they are experiencing homelessness or at risk of losing permanent housing, but not SSVF assistance, according to 7hillscenter.org.

“I wouldn’t say there is a high volume of students coming through,” Mills said in an interview.

“Of the homeless population 37 percent are veterans in northwest Arkansas,” according to 7hillscenter.org.

“One of the No. 1 reasons for someone becoming homeless is because just a lack of a support system,” Mills said.

Affordable Housing Available for Veterans

By Leah Nelson 

The Razorback Reporter

The Fayetteville Housing Authority has four buildings which helps house people who need assistance with finding an affordable place to rent.

The housing authority has three programs with 878 rental units for people with low income and is on a first come, first serve bases.

The Fayetteville Housing Authority has a few veterans living in their four buildings but they’re either elderly or have a disability. Most veterans the housing authority helps are in the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development Veterans Association Supportive Housing program.

The VA provides veterans with health care, mental health care and substance use counseling to help them in their recovery process and their ability to maintain housing in the community, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website.

The program is for homeless veterans who are brought to the housing authority by the VA after the veterans’ case has been handled.

“They provide the supportive and we provide the housing,” said Joy Hunnicutt, the section 8 housing specialist at the Fayetteville Housing Authority.

Veterans work with case managers from the VA to help them pick a place to live if they meet certain requirements. If they are a registered sex offender they are not eligible for the program. The Fayetteville Housing Authority houses 112 veterans through HUD VASH vouchers, Hunnicutt said.

Case managers help veterans with their problems and get jobs, so they eventually earn a high enough income and they do not need to be in the affordable housing system anymore.

“Income isn’t initially an issue but veterans eventually go off the program because their income exceeds our maximum, low income requirement,” said Deniece Smiley the director of the Fayetteville Housing Authority.

The veterans have 120 days to use the voucher from the housing authority in order to receive an affordable housing rental. It takes veterans about one to two months to find a suitable one-bedroom apartment but they usually find a place quickly, Hunnicutt said.

“The difficult thing is that every veteran has a different situation they’re going through, so the time frame is different as well,” Hunnicutt said.