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Oklahoma City advocacy groups hope to see homelessness numbers decline

by Silas Allen Published: January 30, 2014

Kim Woods stood in a gas station parking lot across from a Greyhound bus terminal Thursday afternoon, looking for a group of men she knew probably weren't there.

The intersection of Martin Luther King and Reno avenues, near the Interstate 35-Interstate 44 interchange, was once home to a bustling homeless camp. But Woods, deputy director of the Homeless Alliance, said the nonprofit group has helped most of the men who used to stay in the camp find housing.

Until recently, many of those men might have had a harder time finding housing. But a new program seeks to connect chronically homeless people in Oklahoma City with shelters and social services.

So when a group of social workers and volunteers went to the intersection Thursday as part of Oklahoma City's annual point-in-time homeless census, they didn't find anyone there to count.

“It's a good problem to have,” Woods said.

The program, called the 100,000 Homes Campaign, establishes so-called wet shelters, which allow people with substance abuse problems to be given a place to stay that doesn't require them to abstain from drugs or alcohol.

People staying in the wet shelters are discouraged from using drugs or alcohol but it isn't required. Asking those people to stop drinking or using drugs often isn't realistic, Woods said.

“It's hard to get sober when you're living under a bridge,” she said.

The program also connects those people with case managers and social support personnel who work with them on those issues. In some cases, people staying in wet shelters have begun attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. Some have been able to get jobs, she said.

“Some are more successful than others,” she said.

More than 40 government agencies and faith-based groups have signed on to the campaign. Although the program is only a year old, Woods said it's already having an impact.

The Homeless Alliance and the Coalition to End Poverty, along with other groups, conducted the annual count of homeless individuals and families Thursday. Data from the survey will be sent to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

1,362 counted in 2013

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