OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – City officials and the Homeless Alliance are teaming up to record the number of people experiencing homelessness in Oklahoma City.

It’s a yearly survey conducted to understand and address the issue. The goal is to learn the challenges facing the homeless population and find solutions.

“We’re also asking questions about what would have helped you to prevent you from becoming homeless and what services you need that you’re having trouble accessing mental health services, substance use treatment services, rental assistance,” said Dan Straughan, Executive Director of Homeless Alliance.

With that information, Homeless Alliance can develop programs among the nonprofit and faith-based providers in Oklahoma City to address those service gaps.

Teams from homeless service providers will visit shelters, hot meal programs, and encampments to count and survey unhoused people.

Communities that receive federal funding are required to conduct the survey.

“This is a particularly difficult population to count accurately,” said Jerod Shadid, program planner for the City of Oklahoma City’s Homeless Services. “So many variables can come together to affect the count, such as weather or improved counting strategies. That’s why it’s so important that service providers from our community come together to analyze trends and identify where we need to focus our limited resources.

A tedious count opens the door for new opportunities and programs that’ll help the most vulnerable.

Just like the rest of Oklahoma City’s unhoused population, Wendy Kirk relies on service providers for food, clothing, and a warm place to stay.

For three years, the mother of four has chosen to live on the streets after experiencing a verbally abusive relationship.

“You shouldn’t judge because it’s not always their choice to be unhoused,” said Kirk. “It’s scary sometimes, and you must [look] over your shoulder and make sure nobody’s going to attack you.”

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

In 2022, the count revealed 1,339 Oklahomans were experiencing homelessness in the capital city.

The nonprofit expects that number to increase because of the rapid rise in the cost of rent and the need for more affordable housing.