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Downtown Oklahoma City homeless services consolidate, move closer together

The Jesus House may survive the latest threat to its existence, but the days of homeless services circling downtown appear to be numbered.
by Steve Lackmeyer Modified: August 24, 2010 at 5:55 am •  Published: August 24, 2010

The reports coming out of The Jesus House paint a dismal future for the downtown homeless shelter. At a time when a souring economy was creating greater strain on services for the homeless, the shelter reported donations dropping 21 percent, and unpaid utility bills being met with cutoff notices.

We've been hearing such reports for 20 years. Literally.

The report I'm citing may accurately describe the shelter's current situation as it faces scrutiny for a six-figure director's salary. But it actually goes back to a July 18, 1990, story in The Oklahoman.

That same year I was hired by the paper and initially covered the police beat. Even back then, covering crime, fires and misery — and all too often, the woes facing the homeless — the city's response to its downtrodden didn't make sense.

Who, after all, would intentionally create a ring of social services for the homeless that would require them to walk from the east side of downtown, home to the "detox center" where homeless individuals with substance abuse issues needed to dry out, and then operate a handful of shelters all blocks apart from each other south, west and north of downtown?

Such arrangements have proven maddening to the downtown business community. Those I've talked to are sympathetic to the plight of the less fortunate, but the daily trek of those needing help back and forth across downtown is seen as detrimental to both the homeless and efforts to revitalize the central core.

The Jesus House and City Rescue Mission historically have served as two of the leading shelters. And whether or not The Jesus House survives this latest and perhaps greatest threat to its existence, community leaders apparently have shared my early bewilderment and are determined to make changes.

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by Steve Lackmeyer
Business Reporter
Steve Lackmeyer is a reporter, columnist and author who started his career at The Oklahoman in 1990. Since then, he has won numerous awards for his coverage, which included the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, the city's...
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