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Woman’s dream of helping homeless spreads to 39 states

Woman’s dream of helping homeless spreads to 39 states

USA Today

Being homeless as an adult is unimaginable and even more so if children are the ones who don’t have a place to call home. Many Little Rock, Arkansas families face this harsh reality daily.

As a young girl growing up in Little rock, Georgia Mjartan, recognized the toll that homelessness was taking on many in her neighborhood.

“I was very aware of the disparities and social injustices even as a little girl,” says Mjartan.

It became her life mission to help working homeless adults and their children stay together and live successful lives.

Her mission became a reality when she took over as Executive Director of a local homeless shelter, Our House, in 2005. However, her dreaming didn’t stop there.

“I looked around and saw all of these homeless children who had nowhere to be during the summer holed up in a dark dormitory in the shelter,” says Mjartan. So her dream grew to include a youth center.

She finally saw her vision completed when, three months ago, a $5 million dollar facility opened to provide summer and after school programs for underprivileged school-aged kids. The center more than tripled their daily capacity to serve children.

Melissa Farell is proof that the program is working. She came to Our House four years ago and, with the help of this program, has been reunited with her two kids who now attend the after school program. She credits Mjartan with helping get her life back on track.

“It helps me keep the structure in our life that we learned from here in the beginning and not running up and down the streets,” says Farell, who is now a janitor and shelter supervisor on the weekends.

The praise for Mjartan doesn’t end there. Jan Alman, chair of the Board of Directors for Our House, says Georgia’s inventive programs have made a huge difference in the community.

“She’s changed the lives of so many people by her spirit, positive attitude, by just being a terrific role model,” says Alman.

In fact, her efforts to help serve not only homeless adults, but their families, has become so successful that the Our House model has been replicated across the country in 39 states and throughout Arkansas.

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