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Ending homelessness in OKC


OKLAHOMA CITY – You can expect to see less homeless people on the streets of Oklahoma City in the coming months.

The Homeless Alliance is taking part in a nationwide effort to give homes to 100,000 homeless people.

Touring Gretchen Pace’s camp, you can imagine how hard it would be to be homeless.

“Every morning we wake up and we’re like, ‘Are we going to eat today? Are we going to bathe today?’ When we get back to camp at night we’re like, ‘Are we going to freeze to death,'” Pace said.

Camps like hers dot the city, with a homeless population of 1,300.

However, the Homeless Alliance is working to give housing to those who have been homeless more than a year, those who have been homeless over and over and those who have a disability.

That’s because those people tend to be the hardest to house, costing the city nearly $14 million a year.

“Those costs are coming from emergency rooms, hospitals, police, fire, EMSA, county jail,” Homeless Alliance Director Dan Straughan said.

The Homeless Alliance estimates more than 230 people living in homeless camps qualify for their very own home.

Monday through Wednesday, 200 volunteers will be going camp to camp to survey the people.

They will then find out who meets the criteria for a home.

Some will get veteran housing, others will get a Housing and Urban Development voucher.

Plus, services will be provided to help them stay in it.

“In some cases that may be substance abuse treatment, mental health treatment but in almost every case that will a case manager,” Straughan said.

That case manager will check in on the person to make sure they are adjusting well.

Other cities have had a 93 percent success rate at keeping their homeless population in homes.

“I imagine going into my house, and as soon as I go in, kick my shoes off, get up go to the ice box and get a water, Walter Todd said, who is homeless. “That’s simple things, but you can’t do that here.” 

After jumping from camp to camp, Pace too looks forward to leaving her tent behind.

“I will set in the middle of my house look at the ceiling and say, ‘This is all mine,'” Pace said.

The Homeless Alliance plans to house seven homeless people a month over the next two and a half years.