Organizations seek aggressive solution to chronic homelessness in Oklahoma City

A number of public and private organizations in Oklahoma City are making a foray into the nationwide 100,000 Homes program, which seeks to help chronically homeless people and public budgets.
BY MICHAEL KIMBALL mkimball@opubco.com Published: December 10, 2012
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Despite the best efforts of government and private aid agencies, there are people in Oklahoma City and everywhere else who fall through every crack until nothing is left but jail, the emergency room and the streets.

But those agencies are making an effort locally to implement a national program that not only helps the city's most vulnerable residents, but also could have a significant impact on the blow that homelessness has on city finances.

The Homeless Alliance, federal Housing and Urban Development Department, Oklahoma City Housing Authority and other groups have started to implement the national 100,000 Homes campaign here, which aims to put homeless people in permanent homes as a vehicle to get them more help and keep them out of hospitals and jails.

“These people have a whole constellation of problems,” Dan Straughan, executive director of the Homeless Alliance, said of the chronically homeless. “The idea is to get them in housing, and then fix the problems that are causing them to be unsheltered people.”

Chronically homeless

People are defined by aid groups as chronically homeless if they have been on the streets for more than a year or at least four times in three years. There are about 230 such people in Oklahoma City, according to the Homeless Alliance.

Homelessness costs the city about $28 million per year, according to the city's homelessness study two years ago.

The 100,000 Homes campaign uses the principles of Housing First, the program that gets the homeless into a permanent home before meeting any other need. Officials have found that the chronically homeless matched with a permanent home usually stay there, are more receptive to efforts to provide them with other help and spend far less time in ambulances and police cars.

The city's homelessness study highlighted the case of one of Oklahoma City's chronically homeless men, Floyd Crawford. Crawford cost the city about $160,000 in 2010, but could have cost a tenth of that if he was successfully integrated into a Housing First program.

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The idea is to get them in housing, and then fix the problems that are causing them to be unsheltered people.”

Dan Straughan,
Executive director of the Homeless Alliance

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