The last thing Terry Myrks saw before he died was the noisy underside of a highway overpass, just between Byron's Liquor Warehouse and the state Capitol.
Myrks was blind in one eye, he'd lost part of a foot to diabetes and he spent most nights in a homeless camp under the Interstate 235 overpass on NE 23. Usually, he didn't have anywhere else to go. That's where Oklahoma City police found him dead on the morning of Dec. 5.
The Oklahoma medical examiner's office hasn't yet released the cause of Myrks' death, but police think it was related to the wintry storm that blew through the state two weeks ago.
Oklahoma is home to a growing number of chronically homeless people like Myrks, according to a recent report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The state saw a 28.3 percent increase in chronic homelessness from 2012 to 2013, according to the department's 2013 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress.
Dan Straughan, director of the Oklahoma City nonprofit Homeless Alliance, said those numbers could be misleading. Oklahoma is doing a better job of counting its unsheltered homeless recently, which could explain the increase, he said. Still, Straughan said, many of the city's homeless people can't go to a shelter.
Myrks, 43, had struggled with alcohol for years. He'd been arrested a number of times on several complaints, including public intoxication and robbery, Oklahoma City police spokeswoman Sgt. Jennifer Wardlow said.
His most recent arrest was in February 2012 on a public intoxication complaint.
So-called wet shelters
Most of the shelters in the city require people to pass drug and alcohol tests before offering them a place to stay, said Petey, a homeless man who said he knew Myrks.
Petey, who declined to give his last name, said he thinks that's an unrealistic requirement.
For many homeless people, sleeping on the street is easier than trying to comply with a shelter's rules, he said.
Although Myrks had his problems, Petey said the man was good-hearted and generous.
When Myrks had food, he always was happy to share with the other men in the homeless camp, Petey said.
“He was a good guy,” he said.
Straughan said his group recently began an effort to help homeless people who can't go to shelters because of drug or alcohol addictions.