Executive Director, Jane Browning, Testifies at HUD Hearing 3/2/16


Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Municipal League Building

North Little Rock, Arkansas



I am Jane Browning, Executive Director of the United Way of Garland County, operating out of Hot Springs, Arkansas.  Thank you for the opportunity to present you with testimony regarding the extreme need for low-income housing of all types in Garland County and the surrounding region.

I will preface my remarks with reference to the ASPIRE study published by the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, which finds that 33.3% of all children in Garland County are living in poverty.

I serve as the Secretary for the Southwest Arkansas Partnership Continuum of Care on Homelessness, or SWAP, which meets every month in the United Way conference room.  SWAP conducted a HUD Point in Time homeless count on January 26, 2016 in Garland, Hot Spring and Montgomery Counties. In Garland County, we surveyed 120 homeless adults and collected McKinney Vento homeless counts from the area schools where we found 406 children, 204 of them homeless by the HUD definition.  In Montgomery County, there were 41 homeless children, in Hot Spring County there were 114 children.  The Caddo Hills School District, which straddles Montgomery and Pike Counties, has 33 homeless children, 2 of them are “doubled up” and living with multiple families in one dwelling, but 31 of those children are living in TENTS. These are the children of migrants working in the chicken houses there.

Our 15-member SWAP team in Montgomery County ventured out among as many as 50 homeless camps, in the company of four deputy sheriffs.  One family, a single mother with 3 school-aged children, was living in a house that had no door.  The father had died of cancer at Christmas time.

There is another group that meets monthly in Garland County called Project HOPE, organized over 20 years ago by the Department of Health and St. Vincent’s CHI.  Project HOPE is responsible for the development of the Project HOPE Food Bank serving our region, and the Safe Haven Shelter for Women and Children.  We currently sponsor a Human Trafficking Task Force, a Suicide Prevention Task Force, and I head up the Domestic Trauma Task Force.  We have identified a wide range of emergency shelter and transitional housing needs for special populations. The closest emergency shelter for victims of domestic violence is located in Little Rock.  The closest transitional program for victims of human trafficking is located in Houston. Our 20-bed shelter for women is trying to address the needs of women from as far away as Arkadelphia, which lost its shelter years ago.  There is but one emergency shelter for men. There is no emergency or transitional housing available at all for intact families.

Thank you for hearing from what we refer to as the Ouachita Region. The needs are very great, and we are hopeful that HUD will keep our part of the state in mind at all times.