Oklahoma City joins campaign to get homeless people off streets, into housing

The focus of the nationwide 100,000 Homes campaign is to get chronically homeless people off the streets and into housing. Oklahoma City has joined the effort and will begin surveying its homeless camps next week.
BY VALLERY BROWN vbrown@opubco.com Published: January 19, 2013
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During the predawn hours early next week, about 100 volunteers will begin surveying homeless camps around the city to find the most vulnerable individuals and help them get off the streets.

The effort is part of a nationwide push called 100,000 Homes, a campaign to move the homeless into housing and then support them with services that help keep them under a roof.

“This is the first thing Oklahoma City has done like this,” said Dan Straughan, executive director of the Homeless Alliance, the nonprofit group organizing the campaign locally. “City after city ... has adopted this model for their chronically homeless, and they are seeing savings across the board.”

There are more than 1,300 homeless individuals in Oklahoma City, according to recent counts. About 230 are chronically homeless, which means they've lived on the streets at least a year or four times in the past three years.

Most of the chronically homeless have some sort of mental or substance abuse problem, and many have health issues.

Straughan said the chronically homeless, while a small part of the overall homeless population, account for about 60 percent of the estimated $28 million spent on homelessness in Oklahoma City each year.

Much of that cost is incurred in emergency rooms, jails, detox centers and shelters, he said.

Unlike other programs and efforts that help the homeless get sober or mentally stable before moving into a home, the 100,000 Homes push moves them into a home first.

“Saying you need to be sober for 90 days before you get housing isn't going to happen with most of these people,” he said. “Same thing for mental illness. If you're living under a bridge you're never going to get stable on your mental health meds.”

He said the first step must be getting them into a stable home environment.

Some 40 nonprofit, government and religious organizations are helping with the endeavor, with the goal of moving about seven people into housing each month.

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HOW TO HELP

For more information about how to help, call the Homeless Alliance at 415-8410 or go to www.homelessalliance.org.

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