Our House will partner with UAMS on a new program to provide access to behavioral health services for homeless and near homeless pregnant and new mothers with young children, Our House and UAMS officials announced today.

The new Home Together program will involve the expansion of the Central Arkansans Family Stability Institute, an existing Our House program that provides services to homeless families to help avoid homelessness and reach self-sufficiency, Ben Goodwin, Our House executive director, said at a news conference today.

The Home Together program is funded by a five-year, $2.5 million grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The grant will double the number of families Our House serves through the CAFSI program from 90 per year to 180 per year over five years, effectively totaling about 880 families, or 3,000 individuals. The grant has also allowed Our House to hire three new CAFSI case managers as well as a child and family therapist.

While working with families in the CAFSI program, Our House learned how access to behavioral health services provides crucial intervention to those especially in need of mental health care, Goodwin said.

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“We listened to their stories and we learned about the obstacles they face and the strength, the resilience, the grit it takes to overcome those obstacles,” Goodwin said. “We learned more and more about the anxiety, the depression, the trauma that homelessness and its associated issues it can create, associated traumas like violence, like illness, like unemployment, and family separation. We learned tragically that these families who’ve been through the most, have been through so much, and who need help and support with mental and behavioral health, all too often are the ones who have the hardest time accessing it.”

In addition to behavioral health services, the Home Together program will provide integrated primary care, case management, assistance in connecting to services like SNAP and Transitional Employment Assistance programs, tobacco cessation, classes in financial empowerment and parenting and prevention of HIV and STIs. The program will also provide mothers with priority access to Our House’s early childhood education for young children and their out-of-school-time program for youth ages 6-17.

Dr. Cam Patterson, UAMS chancellor, also spoke at the press conference. He said the services that the Home Together program provides to mothers will help address the troubling statistic that, of the infants delivered at UAMS, about 30 infants each month are discharged with their mothers to an insecure home environment.

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“This is not just an academic enterprise,” Patterson said. “This is a challenge that affects our entire community and everyone in it, every single day of the year.”

He also said that, as Arkansas ranks fourth from the bottom in the instance of child homelessness in the United States, according to a 2014 report by the National Center on Family Homelessness, the Home Together program is launching at a crucial time.

“This is one of those rare opportunities where we are planting seeds that will continue to grow and flourish in this community for decades to come,” Patterson said.

Cindy Crone, of the UAMS Fay. W. Boozman College of Public Health, received the grant and will oversee the program, and Our House will be the direct service provider. Crone said the grant will increase the capacity of the program’s community partners and providers to coordinate with each other and the population they serve, and she emphasized the importance of communication among them to ensure the families receive the health services and social support necessary to become self-sufficient and stable.

She said they expect the program to help lower the barriers that often limit homeless or near homeless pregnant and new mothers from receiving the services they need. “We expect our outcomes to be good [and] our interventions to make a difference, but also to lower costs,” Crone said. “Costs should be lowered in time, in dollars, and in delays that can be critical in the life of a pregnant woman, a newborn, a child, and in the life of a family as whole.”

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The last to speak at the press conference was Ke’undra Gilder, a young woman who arrived at Our House in May 2017 with her daughter, who was 2 years old at the time. Gilder was able to put her daughter in childcare at the Children’s Center on the Our House campus, and she received counseling services through the CAFSI program from CAFSI case manager Kelsie Hammons.

“Kelsie is like a sister, a person I could call and a person that encourages me when I don’t have any type of encouragement, and my daughter loves her,” Gilder said.

Gilder said she’s grateful to Our House for helping her meet her needs and take care of her daughter while they were going through a low period.

“It feels good that you can be able to come here and get so much and leave happy and leave like everything is solid, because I don’t think I would have made it without this,” she said, growing emotional as she spoke. “Not having a family and then coming here and getting all of your needs taken care of, it’s a blessing. And to know I still have them, and I’m growing, and I have so many dreams I want to accomplish.”


Gilder told a reporter that she now works at Walmart, and when she hears stories of people in similar situations to her, she said she refers them to Our House because “when you don’t have anywhere to go, this gives you hope.”

“You know how you pray and ask for a lot of things?” she said. “God sends you to this place right here. … [There’s] hope here, hope to grow and be better person.”