OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – “It’s a better way, literally, and I’m excited to see what it will do here in OKC,” said Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt.
It’s a new program working toward a better outcome for Oklahoma City residents living on the streets.
“It’s not going to be the answer for everybody, but it’s another tool that we’ll have,” said Mayor Holt.
It’s called “A Better Way,” and it aims to employ panhandlers or those experiencing homelessness.
The latest survey shows around 1,600 people are homeless in our city.
Mayor Holt says about 90% are from Oklahoma.
This program aims to put a dent in those numbers.
A van painted with ‘A Better Way‘ will drive to hot spots for panhandlers around the metro and offer jobs that help beautify OKC.
“You can’t lock you people, you can’t ship them away,” said Mayor Holt, “We have to meet people where they are we can’t really force them to do anything, they have to choose this path.”
Participants will get free lunch, courtesy of the Regional Food Bank, and $65 a day.
They will also get connected with other services.
“To sit down over lunch and talk about how to connect with services, mental health services, substance use services, housing and most importantly how to begin the journey back to or into competitive employment,” said Terri White CEO of Mental Health Association Oklahoma.
The program is already up and running in Tulsa – and to give some perspective, they served 265 people last year.
Of those 265 participants, 130 of them enrolled in mental health services, over 70 moved into competitive employment, and four are now in permanent supported housing.
“People who today have a home, will find themselves without one a year from now and when that happens, we need programs like a better way there to help lead them back out of that lifestyle,” said Mayor Holt.
The program was a team effort.
United Way of Central Oklahoma provided $120,000, along with $10,000 from Inasmuch Foundation.
The City of Oklahoma City contributed $150,000 in start-up funding, plus the van.
Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma donates boxed lunches for participants.
The van will have its first expedition Sept. 13th.
From there, it will run Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 7:30 a.m. – 4 p.m.