Survey finds increase in Oklahoma City's chronically homeless

Oklahoma City is the 102nd city to join 100,000 Homes Campaign, a nationwide initiative to find homes for 100,000 of the country's most vulnerable homeless people.
by Heather Warlick Modified: January 25, 2013 at 11:06 pm •  Published: January 26, 2013
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According to a 2010 Cost of Homelessness study, Oklahoma City spends about $28 million each year on homelessness through shelters, social services, emergency room visits and jail. Other states using the 100,000 Homes model have seen drastic reductions in their costs of homelessness: New York saw a 70 percent reduction, Maine saw a 66 percent reduction and Massachusetts saw a $10,000 per person reduction per year.

“When you stop and think about it, when there's a business case to do something and there's a moral case to do something, then there's really no excuse for not doing it,” Straughan said.

Warming up

The campaign's local volunteers went out in small groups to canvass the city's many homeless camps on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, waking people between 4 and 6 a.m., when they're likely still to be in their camps.

“It was freezing, and going out there that early in the dark, it can be a little frightening,” said DaNisha Blackmon, 23, a master's candidate in social work at University of Oklahoma who volunteered for the campaign. “A lot of the people out there, they're probably more scared of us than we are of them. Nobody cussed us out, nobody was rude. Even the people that were a little upset about being woken up that early, they warmed up usually.”

To literally warm the homeless people being surveyed, Diane Pierce and Stacia Gillet, both of Oklahoma City, recently spent a total of about 575 hours knitting 230 stocking hats which were given to the homeless people.

The canvassers photographed the homeless, many wearing their new hats. They were also given McDonald's gift cards and bus passes.

Meeting needs

To meet the housing needs of the 100,000 Homes Campaign, the HUD VA Supports Housing (VASH) program will provide housing for the veterans, the Oklahoma City Housing Authority pledged to provide Section 8 housing vouchers, and other programs such as Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPA) have promised help.

All told, about 40 local organizations are supporting the campaign, Straughan said.

But these groups are also asking support from the community in the form of cash and household items to go to the campaign's beneficiaries, the homeless who qualify for housing. It costs about $1,000 to move one person into housing, said Bob Ross, president and CEO of Inasmuch Foundation which has supported The Homeless Alliance since its conception.

He issued a call to action for the community, saying the campaign has a public fundraising goal of $7,000 per month to cover these move-in costs.

“We're asking everyone to step up, to rise up with us and as a whole community support this campaign,” Ross aid. “I can't think of anything more important than this.”

For more information, go to www.100kHomesOKC.org.


by Heather Warlick
Life & Style Editor
Since graduating from University of Central Oklahoma with a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism, Staff Writer Heather Warlick has written stories for The Oklahoman's Life section. Her beats have included science, health, home and garden, family,...
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