Advocates have drawn up plans for simple apartments suitable for chronically homeless men and women who struggle with the most fundamental housekeeping skills.
The “single-room occupancy” development is proposed for the WestTown campus, a resource center for the homeless in the 1700 block of NW 4 Street west of downtown.
The development could be a model for the kind of housing many indigent residents need, said Dan Straughan, executive director of Oklahoma City's Homeless Alliance.
The Alliance hopes to build the development on the northeast corner of the WestTown campus. Tuesday, Straughan described the project at the Oklahoma City Council meeting. Eventually, the Alliance will ask the city council to approve the project.
WestTown includes a day shelter, medical and dental clinic, and resource center that connects homeless residents with housing assistance, job training and other services.
Straughan told the council Tuesday that the project would build on the success of the Housing First initiative.
It is designed to get people a roof over their heads before tackling other needs, such as job training, drug- and alcohol-abuse treatment, and mental health counseling.
Straughan said Housing First, begun a year ago, had placed 217 people in places of their own by the end of 2013. So far, 98 percent have managed to hold onto their homes, he said.
“This initiative has succeeded beyond our wildest dreams,” Straughan said.
Available housing can be unsuitable, though. Among the chronically homeless, some people find it difficult to care for an apartment, much less shop for groceries or fix their own meals, he said.
That's where the single-room occupancy plan comes in.
To be constructed adjacent to the WestTown day shelter and resource center, the project would provide 20 spartan apartments — along the lines of dormitory rooms with private bathrooms.
The 250-square-foot dwellings would have seating space, and room for a bed, under-the-counter refrigerator and microwave oven.
The project is to cost $1.1 million. Major donors lined up so far include the Inasmuch Foundation, Gaylord Foundation and Leeman Family Foundation, Straughan said.
Single-room occupancy could be a catalyst for other developments that could move people off the streets, into housing and on to a better life, he said.
The annual census of homeless Oklahoma City residents is set for Jan. 30. Last year, advocates counted 1,362 homeless residents living in the city.
Accounting for those who could not be found or counted, advocates estimated 430 people in Oklahoma City had nowhere to stay at night.