A collective effort of many groups with a “system-centric” mindset is the best way to help those in need recover from homelessness, says Robert Marbut.

The founding president and CEO of the Haven for Hope in San Antonio, a model for the Hope Campus in Fort Smith, spoke Friday at the services center on North Fourth Street.

Marbut, a consultant who conducted a study in 2011 on Fort Smith homelessness for the Fort Smith Homeless Task Force, said he was pleased to see the Hope Campus come to fruition last year.

Jeremy May, chairman of the Old Fort Homeless Coalition, said there is a misconception the Hope Campus is just a “homeless shelter” when it actually provides many services to help people get back on their feet.

Simply handing out food to the homeless is “enabling” and does not address the root problems people have that made them homeless to begin with, Marbut noted in his 30-minute speech Friday to about 50 local leaders at the Hope Campus “partner area.”

Providing food and shelter are simply the first steps to creating a self-sufficient person, Marbut noted. A successful model has as many services as possible under one roof or campus to creates a more “friendly” environment for people in need.

“You get more ‘hand offs’ in a shorter amount of time,” Marbut said of a term used to describe a person being moved from one service to another.

Someone coming off the street may have many different issues to address, from a lost identification card to dental work before applying for a job.

“That’s why campus models work the best,” Marbut said.

The consultant also noted a growing trend by funding providers to required agencies that address homelessness to work together as one team. He called groups that simply hand out food “enabling models” as opposed to “recovery models” that work to provide multiple services that aim to help someone achieve self-sufficiency.

Marbut encouraged agencies to become members of the Homeless Management Information System to better track successes and help the homeless, and measure “outcomes” rather than “output,” such as meals served.

As noted at his website, Marbut has worked on issues of homelessness for more than 30 years, including work as a White House Fellow to President H.W. Bush and later as a San Antonio city councilman/mayor-pro-tem.

Marbut, who has a doctorate from the University of Texas at Austin in international relations, pointed to Father John’s Mission with the Society of St. Vincent DePaul in San Diego as his mentor for helping the homeless in America.

“In 2007, frustrated by the lack of real improvement in reducing homelessness, and as part of the concept development phase for the Haven for Hope Campus, Dr. Marbut conducted a nationwide best practices study," Marbut's website notes. "After personally visiting 237 homeless service facilities in 12 states and the District of Columbia, he developed 'The Seven Guiding Principles of Homeless Transformation,' which focuses on root causes and recovery, not symptoms and short-term gimmicks."