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story.lead_photo.caption Stephanie Regan walks down South School Avenue last week on her way to breakfast at the 7 Hills Day Center. After a cold night, a line of more than 20 people will begin to form about 7:30 a.m. for entry into the center. For more photos, visit nwaonline.com. - Photo by David Gottschalk

Robert Graham frequently arrives among the first at Fayetteville’s 7 Hills Homeless Center.

He circles the gravel parking lot in his white Ford Ranger and stops where the driver’s door opens directly onto the concrete slab attached to day center.

Parking his pickup there affords him conversational access to those gathered around and easier access to the wheel chair in the bed.

Graham, a 55-year-old amputee, lives in the Ranger. He is one of 250 to 300 individuals who use the center at 1832 S. School Ave. as their home address.

On average, 92 new clients visit the center monthly, according to Solomon Burchfield, director of operations at 7 Hills.

Preliminary results from the University of Arkansas’ Community and Family Institute’s biennial count, taken two weeks ago, found 2,951 people are living on the streets, in shelters, motels or doubled up with friends or family in Benton and Washington counties. This is up 500 people from 2015.

The homeless center offers a day shelter, free clothing, laundry, camping gear, hygiene products, a food pantry and access to a computer. Crisis counseling, community referrals and a job board also exist free of charge. Clients can receive health and dental care, mental health counseling and legal assistance for free through community partners.

Breakfast is served beginning at 8 a.m., and the center closes at 4 p.m.

Fayetteville recently approved an emergency contract with 7 Hills. The city agreed to give the nonprofit center $25,000 per month over two-month increments, totaling up to a possible $150,000. In exchange, 7 Hills agreed to maintain operations.

Burchfield said the center’s housing programs serve 200 people annually.

Typically, about eight clients receive permanent employment each month, with an additional 15 to 20 working day labor programs.

As 4 p.m. approaches, 28-year-old Robert Leonard heads to one of his two overnight jobs. Anthony Barger, 44, makes his way to one of four different homeless camps in the area.

Graham starts his pickup and drives to an undisclosed lot, until he returns in the morning.

Print Headline: HOMELESS

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