Floyd Love’s last job was dangling, belly down, from the skeleton of a building. Since working on a tower in Colorado last year, the iron walker has been unemployed. He’s traveled a bit with his wife and two children, looking for a job. They ended up in Oklahoma, where he was born, and are living at The Salvation Army downtown. Love wants work. And he wants to get his family back on its feet. "I’m trying to get out of here as fast as I can for someone else who needs it,” he said. "I’m not a lifer.” Families such as the Loves have been the focus of community advocates for the past couple years, said Dan Straughan, executive director of Homeless Alliance. That work has contributed to a 27 percent drop in Oklahoma City’s homeless population since last year. A total of 1,081 homeless people were documented in the 2010 Point in Time Count of the Homeless Survey, which was released Thursday. The 2009 count documented 1,475 homeless people. The actual homeless population is about four to five times higher, Straughan said. Straughan attributes the drop to three factors: →The recession hasn’t affected Oklahoma as much as other large cities →Programs designed to get families off the street are working →An ice storm the night of the count could have a statistical impact Oklahoma City is one of the few large cities to see a decline in homeless numbers, Straughan said. City officials nationwide are releasing results of similar point-in-time surveys completed in late January. "It’s really a dramatic (decline), and it’s coming at a time when other cities across the country are reporting a double-digit increase,” he said. For example, the New York homeless population has gone up 25 percent during the past year, according to that city’s Homeless Services Department. Homelessness in the Dallas area increased 1 percent, according to the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance. But Oklahoma City isn’t just lucky, Straughan said. Advocates and city leaders have been pushing new programs that help homeless families. "They’ve been our fastest-growing demographic of the homeless,” he said. "And it’s arguably an inappropriate population to place in an emergency shelter.” One program, the Homeless Prevention and Rapid Rehousing Program, has been particularly effective, Straughan said. The program was created with stimulus funds given to Oklahoma City by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Six partner agencies help identify families on the brink of homelessness and help them with rent assistance, utility payments and other needs. City leaders here designed the program, which began Oct. 19, Straughan said. To be eligible, families must have good work and housing histories. It’s designed to serve as a safety net for parents who’ve lost their jobs or gone into debt because of catastrophes like uninsured medical expenses. So far, about 100 families have used the stimulus funds to stay afloat, Straughan said. He estimates about 400 people have benefited.
→1,081: Number of homeless people counted in the 2010 Point in Time Count of the Homeless. →1,475: Number of homeless people counted in 2009. →81 percent of homeless people in Oklahoma City lived here when they became homeless. →26 percent are chronically homeless. →15 percent are veterans. →27 percent have substance abuse problems. →22 percent have severe mental illness. →1 percent have HIV or AIDS. The homeless population in Oklahoma City is disproportionately black, according to the report. About 38 percent of homeless people are black, while only 11 percent of the city population is. About 44 percent of homeless people are white, while 76 percent of the city population is. The homeless rate among other minorities — including American Indians, Hispanics and Asians — is proportionate to the general population.
Source: Homeless Alliance