The reality of the homeless can be bleak if not for shelters and food banks where those down on their luck can get a hot meal and a place to lay their head. 

Volunteers and staff at Bethlehem House in Conway know the plight of the hungry and homeless in the area. They serve between 60-80 people dinner every night at their location at 930 Faulkner St. In addition to food, they provide families with a place to do their laundry and take a shower. They also have a transitional shelter where they house up to 36 people while they seek employment and get back on their feet.

Jill Imboden, development coordinator, said that while the shelter assists as many people as they can, the could not do it without the support of the community.

"We receive funds from the United Way, some government money through Housing and Urban Development as well as Federal Emergency Management Administration, churches and local businesses, a large portion of our funding is from private citizens throughout the community," she said. "The community has come through for us before and I am hoping they do so again while we try to raise money to build a new location for our operations."

To aid in the effort to raise funds for the building campaign, a free concert will be held Sarturday at the Kris Allen Stage in Simon Park beginning at 4 p.m. that will feature local bands. Those attending the concert are asked to give cash donations to help with the building fund and Imboden said a new building can not come too soon.

"The building we have been housed in for the last 20 years is about 100 years old, so you can imagine the wear and tear it has seen," she said. "We are to the point of desperation  with the facility, we lost a portion of the floor just this week. The concert will be the first big event we have put on to help raise funds for a new building and I hope the community supports it by coming to have a good time and listen to some local, family friendly bands."

Imboden said the new building is imperative as the agency has seen an increase in families with children who come to them for assistance.

"We serve about 400 children a year," she said. "We don’t ask questions to whoever comes through our doors for help. If they show up for dinner, we feed them. Some families are not necessarily homeless, they just might not be able to feed their kids. We have family rooms for those that are homeless and we have nine children with us currently."

In addition to donations at the concert, T-shirts will be on sale in support of Bethlehem House as well as bracelets. Snacks and drinks will also be sold during the concert.

The band line up includes: Yesteryear, Smokey Emerson, This Holy House, Blackbird Academy, Ticket to ride, Syndrome. Big Water Possum, The Alexei, Surburan Legend, Da Boomers and the Conway Institute of Music.

The event is being sponsored by Acxiom, Sonic, Angela Conrad Inc., Conway Institute of Music, Full Focus Inc, Conway Downtown Partnership and Revel@Conway.

For more information about the concert or Bethlehem House, contact Imboden at jillimboden@conwaycorp.net or visit www.bethlehemhouse.net.

(Candie Beck is a staff writer and can be reached at 505-1238 or at candie.beck@thecabin.net)