Our House recently broke ground on a $16 million project to not only expand its physical campus in Little Rock by 27,300 SF but to hire staff to increase the reach of its programs for homeless and near-homeless families in the region.
Development Director Caroline Robbins late Monday afternoon emailed details of the nonprofit’s plan, which she said had been in the works for five years. It received board approval in 2019 but was derailed by the pandemic.
Our House has already raised most of the funds needed but is seeking approximately $3 million to double its housing capacity for families; double the capacity of two programs for children; provide more space for workforce training programs; and, for the first time, build dedicated space for on-site mental and physical health services.
More specifically, the nonprofit is planning to add:
- 8,000 SF of family housing that can serve 56 people. This housing will take the form of 14 apartment-style, transitional units with common kitchen and living space.
- 5,800 SF of Little Learners space to serve 60 children ages 3-5
- 4,500 SF of Our Club space to serve up to 80 middle school and high school students with out-of-school-time programming
- 4,200 SF of dedicated space for physical and mental health services, including waiting areas, private meeting rooms and clinic rooms that will also support weekly health clinics provided on site by Arkansas Children’s Hospital and ARCare
- 4,800 SF for Career Center, case managers and support staff, including more one-on-one and small group meeting rooms
Construction of two new buildings and other changes to the campus is expected to cost nearly $11 million, while the rest of the $16 million will be used to increase Our House’s operating budget over the next three years. Robbins said she didn’t know yet how many people the nonprofit would be able to hire as part of the expansion plan.
The new buildings are set to open by fall 2023. Herron Horton Architects Inc. of Little Rock is designing them, and Nabholz Construction of Conway is the contractor.
Our House says this expansion is needed because the total number of people it serves has increased by more than 50% in the past few years.
The nonprofit said it has had to turn people away when it reaches capacity — as many as 360 in October 2021 — and that it hasn’t increased its capacity in nearly two decades.
Robbins said most of those turned away are families because it is more difficult to have several beds open for a mother and her children than it is to have one bed open for an individual.
“And then we knew that we couldn’t, you know, we knew that we couldn’t expand our housing without also expanding our wraparound services because, at Our House, we don’t believe that you’re homeless because you don’t have a roof over your head,” she said. “We believe that different people from different walks of life have many different factors into building their pathway out of poverty.”
In addition, hundreds of children are waitlisted for Our House programs, and demand for its Career Center services is growing.