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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – On Thursday, for the first time since the pandemic began, the Homeless Alliance was able to do its count of people experiencing homelessness in Oklahoma City.

The survey is typically done annually to help better understand and address the issue – and this year – they’re also hoping to see impact COVID-19 has had on it.

“You never know what somebody’s going through, that actually put them in the situation they’re in,” said Oklahoma City resident, Boris Grene. “Nobody grows up and says, decides, ‘Hey, I want to be homeless.'”

It’s not a situation Grene ever imagined he’d find himself in – seeking shelter when the cold nights become too much.

“When it’s brutally cold outside, since I got a pinched nerve, my right thigh numbs up on me,” Grene said. 

It’s only a fraction of the struggles he faces – and is working to overcome by selling magazines for the local nonprofit, The Curbside Chronicle.

“I had seen a couple of guys do it when it first started off and I was like, ‘no, I ain’t going to do that. I’m not going to stand on a corner and sell magazines,’ but in reality, it dawned on me, ‘hey, instead of like most people going out panhandling begging for money here, you can actually work and make your own money and set your own hours,'” Grene said. 

For the Homeless Alliance, the annual count allows people like Grene share their stories.

The goal is to learn the challenges those experiencing homelessness are facing and find solutions.

“Point in time is always a snapshot of what’s going on with the population,” said Meghan Mueller with The Homeless Alliance. 

Due to COVID, this is the first point in time count in two years.

The pandemic has brought on a number of challenges, from the rising cost of living to people experiencing homelessness for the first time.

“Homelessness has been more visible and so whether that’s reflective of an actual increase or not, is to be determined, I think,” Mueller said. “But it’s definitely more visible, especially with all the development happening downtown and more people being downtown with new parks and new attractions.” 

If you want to help – the best advice is simple. 

“Remember that and treat people with kindness,” Mueller said. “Reach out to local nonprofits. We all need help.”

The Homeless Alliance says you can also help by advocating for more affordable housing – which they say has become increasingly harder to find.