As the state braces for its first freeze this weekend, new data released by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development shows more than 2,500 Arkansans could be facing those cold temperatures outside.
HUD released the latest homeless numbers on Thursday, suggesting the number of homeless Arkansans is actually on the decline. In January, dozens of volunteers with the Central Arkansas Team Care for the Homeless conducted the Point-In-Time count for Pulaski, Saline, Lonoke & Prairie counties.
The 2015 Point-In-Time count compared to the count in 2013 showed a 12% decline for the whole state and deeper decline for central Arkansas - shedding 22% of the area's homeless population with 830 homeless people counted across the four county survey area.
"Every two years when we do this big, full, robust count - we have seen a drop every time since 2009," said Ben Goodwin, board vice-president for CATCH.
According to CATCH statistics, 2015 homeless numbers for central Arkansas are down by 42% since 2009 - nearly the height of the economic recession across the United States.
Goodwin works full-time as assistant director of Our House, a homeless shelter focused on families. According to Our House statistics, out of the more than 1,700 people that stay at the shelter every year - nearly 70% end up getting out of homelessness. Goodwin suggests an improving economy is part of the reason homeless numbers are trending downward.
"One of the core requirements at Our House is that all clients are required to work a full-time job," said Goodwin. "We've seen our clients a little bit better able to find that job."
Goodwin also credits the lower homeless population to homelessness prevention efforts being undertaken by local agencies like Our House and other homeless advocates around the state.
Broken down, the biggest drops in central Arkansas's homeless population happened among young adults (-68%), unsheltered homeless (-33%) and the chronically homeless (-41%). Homeless veterans in central Arkansas also decreased from 2013 to 2015 by 27%.