updated 8/30/2010 7:45:58 AM ET 2010-08-30T11:45:58

LITTLE ROCK, Ark., Aug. 27, 2010 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- When Janis Newberry moved a year ago into Our House, a working shelter in Little Rock, Arkansas, for homeless men, women, and children, she had nowhere else to turn. After losing both her parents several years ago, she found it increasingly difficult to cope with life, sunk into depression, and started drinking "way too much," she says.

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While she was functional – able to hold a job and maintain a residence of her own for a while – she never really felt like she had recovered from her tragedies. A failed suicide attempt in August 2009 prompted her to rethink her life.

"I was physically and mentally exhausted. I attempted suicide, but I wasn't successful," she said. "When I woke up I knew I had to either do something else or give up."

Ms. Newberry, now 41, went to Our House, a working shelter in Little Rock that not only provides individuals with a place to stay, but offers job training and employment assistance, substance abuse recovery programs, and child care. The shelter also requires residents to work and save money while at the shelter so they can prepare for life on their own.

Our House recently celebrated the grand opening of a 13-unit transitional housing facility for individuals transitioning from the shelter to independent living. The transitional housing facility, which can house up to 38 people, received a $376,986 grant from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas (FHLB Dallas), issued through Summit Bank, as part of FHLB Dallas's 2010 Affordable Housing Program (AHP) grants.

AHP grants are used to purchase, construct, or rehabilitate single-family, transitional, and multifamily projects for very low- to moderate-income families. In 2010, through member institutions such as Summit Bank, FHLB Dallas has awarded $18.5 million in AHP grants, including $1.5 million in Arkansas to fund the creation or rehabilitation of 187 housing units.

Our House Executive Director Georgia Mjartan worked with Summit Bank to apply for the AHP grant. It wasn't hard to convince the bank of the need for the transitional housing facility. John Fowler, Summit Bank's Little Rock market president, also serves as president of the Our House Board of Directors, so he was well aware of the impact the shelter has had in Little Rock.

Our House is unique in that it enables a homeless, single father to stay with and care for his children. Many programs exist to serve women and children, single men, single women, or children only, but very few programs exist that keep the entire family unit together. 

"It can be incredibly difficult for families who find themselves homeless, for whatever reason, or single mothers, or fathers with children who become homeless to find a place to help them get back on their feet," said Mr. Fowler. "Our House is a wonderful conduit for moving people from being homeless back into being productive members of society."

The AHP grant will help Our House cover the construction costs it incurred for the facility.

"With the economic situation as it is, we've seen a huge increase in homeless families with children coming to our programs," said Ms. Mjartan. "This grant from FHLB Dallas allows us to expand housing for such a large population of homeless families that have those needs now."

Summit Bank CFO and Executive Vice President Chris Wewers said the bank was grateful and appreciative for the opportunity to partner with two outstanding organizations, the FHLB Dallas and Our House, on this project.

 "Our House provides a great service and does great work," Mr. Wewers said. "We hope this is the first of many projects among Our House, FHLB Dallas, and Summit Bank."

Ms. Newberry acknowledges that she is proof the program is more than just a shelter. In August, she was able to move from the women's housing at Our House into the newly constructed transitional housing. She also was recently promoted to night manager at the shelter, and this fall she is returning to college to study social work.

"This is not your typical shelter," she said. "These are people like you and me that are either a tragedy or a paycheck away from homelessness. They really give you the tools to learn to deal with life. It's a wonderful, wonderful program."

About the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas

The Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas is one of 12 district banks in the FHLBank System created by Congress in 1932.  FHLB Dallas, with total assets of $57.1 billion as of June 30, 2010, is a member-owned cooperative that supports housing and community development by providing competitively priced loans and other credit products to more than 900 members and associated institutions in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Texas.  For more information, visit the FHLB Dallas web site at fhlb.com.

The Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas logo is available at http://www.globenewswire.com/newsroom/prs/?pkgid=3013

The photos are also available via AP PhotoExpress.

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