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story.lead_photo.caption Robert Stufflebeam Jr. (left photo) is assisted March 14 by Jordan Wheelus, 20, of Rogers, to select a variety of clothes and shoes in the clothing room at center. Community service was a requirement for graduating from Wheelus’ high school in St. Louis. She’s continuing the practice as she attends college. - Photo by David Gottschalk

FAYETTEVILLE -- Justin Savage spreads out a sheet of plastic in the library at 7 Hills Homeless Center and places a hardback chair on it. The licensed hairdresser pulls out an assortment of barber tools and begins cutting hair for male and female clients. Savage, with Kith & Kin Hair Co., cuts and styles at the center for free every other Thursday.

Photo by David Gottschalk
Jessica Hopkins, 29, leaves her tent Feb. 17 to return to the 7 Hills Homeless Center in Fayetteville. Hopkins, who prefers to camp alone, recently became employed and is working to pay fines.
Photo by David Gottschalk
Justin Savage, 27, with Kith & Kin Hair Company, shaves Cody Richardson’s hair Feb. 23 in the computer lab at 7 Hills Homeless Center in Fayetteville. Savage, a Paul Mitchell School graduate, volunteers every other Thursday cutting both men’s and women’s hair.
Photo by David Gottschalk
Cody McConnell, 28, reviews paperwork March 10 in the green Saturn station wagon parked at the 7 Hills Homeless Center in Fayetteville. McConnell, who lives in the vehicle, is going through the process of receiving a variety of help from Ozark Guidance in Springdale.
Photo by David Gottschalk
Courtney Hardy (center), 21, visits Feb. 23 with Joel Beal, 22, both seniors at UA’s Eleanor Mann School of Nursing, as she cleans Russell LaFarlette’s feet on the back deck of the center.

The 27-year-old says Fayetteville has a great reputation for helping, so "why not help out that reputation and give back."

Jordan Wheelus, 20, of Rogers, volunteers two to six hours a week at 7 Hills. She recently helped fit clients with clothes, shoes and coats. Seniors at her St. Louis high school were required to do community service and Wheelus said she wanted to continue that practice.

Solomon Burchfield, director of operations at the center, estimates about half the volunteers at the center are in their early to mid-20s and they are helping out a lot of their peers.

The University of Arkansas' Community and Family Institute's biennial homeless count taken in January found 2,951 people living on the streets, in shelters, motels or doubled up with friends or family in Benton and Washington counties. That's 500 more people than were counted in 2015. 7 Hills has 514 clients ages 18-30, second only to the 31-50 age group of 923.

Jessica Hopkins, 29, began using the center's services in late January. She attended Liberty-Eylau High School in Texarkana, Texas, and says she walked to Northwest Arkansas. Hopkins recently completed an addiction treatment program in Bentonville. She got a job through the center and has been employed for three months.

Hopkins camps alone and is undecided if she will use the services available at the center to find housing. A portion of her first paychecks has been going to paying off fines.

"I want to get that load off my back!" she says.

The university's count in 2015 reported people ages 20-24 amounted to 7.2 percent of the region's homeless population and ages 25-34 were 24.5 percent.

The 20-something volunteer group includes students at the University of Arkansas' Eleanor Mann School of Nursing who are at the center every Wednesday and Thursday for their Community Clinic rotation.

Joel Beal, 22, a senior nursing student, says " everyone receives the same quality of care at any age." But he agrees with fellow student Courtney Hardy, 21, clients in their 20s can be easier to relate and speak to.

"We realize they are young and our age, but just in a different spot," Hardy says.

Cody McConnell, 28, is in a self-described different place. He's using resources at the center to help with his "self-medication." McConnell lives in his green Saturn station wagon. The vehicle registration expired in January. He recently spent the night in the parking lot of Ozark Guidance in Springdale.

"It's worth taking the chance," he says about the possibility of being taken into custody for driving the vehicle and detained because of warrants he claims to have. McConnell didn't want to miss his 8:30 a.m. appointment to start paperwork for addiction treatment.

Younger clients at 7 Hills sometimes face the most obstacles, says case manager Deja Glover. She has worked at the center for nine years. She says clients age 18-26 often are too old for the foster care system or "have burned bridges" with family members or friends. She encourages treatment for some because they have mental health issues and should be medicated.

"They are in their prime," she adds, "it just pulls at my heartstrings."

NW News on 04/09/2017

Print Headline: Millennials help homeless peers

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