Alvin Davis speaks at an April 8 rally for the homeless in Fayetteville.
                                                                                                                   Photo: Katie Serrano

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Three years ago, Alvin Davis was an engineer. He had a steady job, one he was proud of and worked hard to achieve.

Then Davis, 58, was laid off. His bills quickly began to pile up and he lost his car, and then lost everything. Now, he is homeless.

Professionals such as engineers can fall into poverty or become homeless because of unfortunate circumstances, Davis told a crowd at the April 8 “Walk a Mile in My Shoes” march, organized by a University of Arkansas student Quinn Childress, a local activist. Some 100 people marched from 7hills Homeless Center to the Fayetteville Town Center.

Davis lives at the 7Hills Walker Family Residential Community, which provides transitional and permanent supportive housing. He said nobody wants to hire someone whose address has the words “7Hills Homeless Center.” And those lucky enough to get work are underpaid because they are homeless.

“I know so many carpenters and plumbers who are not being utilized, or if they, are it’s nowhere near a liveable wage,” he said.  “Local companies abuse the homeless, knowing that they will work for almost nothing because they are in need of almost everything. But that isn’t going to help solve the problem.” 

Finding housing is a major challenge.  “Let’s say you’re lucky enough to find affordable housing or apply for a housing program,” he said. “You’re still not going to get it because then you have the background checks, and you could have a non-violent charge against you that happened 20 years ago, and you’re still not gonna get the apartment.”

Landlords need to reduce the cost of rentals and leases for houses and apartments, he said. “We need to raise the minimum wage, because rent won’t wait,” he said.