Northwest Arkansas holds sixth homeless count amid local, national transitions

Expensive medical emergencies, job loss and substance abuse all can leave someone homeless, but for Ronnie King, it started with a divorce about a decade ago.

He lived in his car after that for a while — “as long as the cops didn’t arrest me, I could actually go to sleep” — then bounced between a supportive family member and a few friends, King said Thursday. Now he lives in Fayetteville with a friend with severe liver damage, caring for him and doing landscaping work for a church and some other clients.

It’s a good arrangement while it lasts, he said.

“If a lot of people had a place to lay their head at night, I believe they’d try to work and better themselves,” King said. “It just gives you that inner peace.”

King was among hundreds of people targeted by the region’s sixth biennial homelessness census Thursday, a 24-hour snapshot of the problem done by the University of Arkansas Community and Family Institute. Scores of volunteers fanned out to about three dozen churches, shelters and pantries in Benton and Washington counties to tally perhaps thousands of people who don’t have homes of their own.

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