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Plans begin for Conway homeless shelter | News

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Plans begin for Conway homeless shelter

CONWAY, Ark. (KTHV) - The Conway Planning Commission voted 8-1 in favor of a new emergency homeless shelter. The next step is getting a permit approved, but not everyone is in favor of this shelter opening its doors.

The Ministry Center of Conway started as a refuge for tornado victims in Faulkner County last spring.

"The need was so great in our county that we went ahead and did an early launch," said Spring Hunter, the case manager of the Ministry Center. She said after the tornado victims began to stabilize, they turned their ministry into something much bigger.

"We began to realize there was this other population that was still in desperate need of services," said Hunter.

So now they provide services year round to help get homeless people back on their feet. "We work with job placement, continued education and maybe even help get someone their GED," said Hunter.

But now, the Ministry Center is hoping to put those services under the roof of a shelter.

"The downstairs portion that will be the common area and the living room. In the upstairs unite, that will be the bedding quarters," said Hunter.

This shelter would set apart from others in the area, by being the first emergency homeless shelter in Conway.

"An emergency shelter is a place for you to go right now, to get a bed, to get a meal," said Hunter.

While planning is already underway to open the doors of the homeless shelter, just across the street, other businesses are concerned with safety issues with the homeless shelter so nearby.

"We don't consider this the safest part of town," said Trish Duran, a hair dresser at "Wild Hair" Salon. She said she's worried about leaving work at night already.

"I'm also hoping that it's going to be a safe thing cause we've already had someone come in here we didn't consider safe and had to call the authorities," said Hunter.

Although she likes the idea of giving the homeless a place to stay, she said she's concerned the shelter will increase the violence in the area.

The Ministry Center is hopeful the permit will be approved. If it is, the next step is hiring more staff.

"If we don't have all of our programming in place, if we don't have all of our staff in place, if we can't keep this area secure, we're not going to launch," said Hunter.

The city council will decide on the requested permit on June 22 at 7 p.m.

As of January 1, 2015, there are 161 registered homeless people in Faulkner County.

This number is not accurate though, since there are many homeless people who do not register with the city.

If the shelter permit is approved, Hunter says they will start with a soft launch with around 10-20 beds, and hope to add more overtime.