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City: Little Rock
Category: Nonprofit Organization of the Year
Our House opened in 1987 as a shelter to meet the needs of homeless families, which short-term stay shelters weren't able to keep together or assist long-term.
Our House serves "families, no matter what the makeup of the family," said Georgia Mjartan, the organization's executive director.
Our House is the only homeless shelter in Arkansas that houses single fathers with their children, and keeps older male sons with their mothers.
Our House also requires its residents to work full-time jobs and save 75 percent of their earnings. The organization provides food and shelter, but also job training, a health clinic, financial literacy instruction and more. The shelter sees success, with 62 percent of its clients leaving with full-time jobs.
"Our House is a permanent pathway out of poverty rather than a safe place to stay for a few nights," Mjartan said.
Our House has 118 beds and shelters 120 children and adults per night.
Our House continues to expand the services it provides. For example, starting last July, Our House began helping families who are nearly homeless to stay out of homelessness.
Up to 220 people per month approach Our House for help, and about 75 of them are children, Mjartan said. More than half of those people have to be turned away because the shelter doesn't have enough room to provide housing for them.
Families with children tend to contact Our House prior to becoming homeless, Mjartan said. Through the new program, Our House is helping families the way it helps its residential clients — by working with them to find jobs and providing child care, education and other services — in an effort to prevent them from becoming homeless, she said. The organization's revenue was $1.34 million in 2012, up about 4 percent from 2011 and 19 percent from 2010.
In addition, Our House leaders are raising $3.8 million toward constructing a new children's center. The shelter currently has the space to serve 50 children per day. The new facility would allow Our House to serve 142 children per day through expansion of its licensed child development center and after school and weekend youth programs.