OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Some of Oklahoma’s most vulnerable residents are facing another challenge – a lack of housing options.

Those who issue housing vouchers or rental assistance say they’re having a harder time than ever finding landlords to accept those they serve.

COVID has left a visible impact on everything – including vulnerable Oklahoma City residents.

“I’ve never seen it like this before,” said Shelah Farley with Mental Health Association Oklahoma. “We have many people experiencing homelessness for the first time, so it’s really scary when you don’t know how to navigate the resources.”

Farley works closely with people trying to better their lives through the association.

One way is through providing vouchers funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“So what it does is it allows a person to only have to pay 30% of their income towards their rent, which honestly, I feel like all of us should only have to pay 30% – so the HUD funds the rest of that,” Farley said. “So HUD will pay the apartment complex the remainder of that rent that the tenant is not responsible for.”

But Farley says it’s been harder than ever to find landlords willing to accept that money.

“You know, there was a time where a housing voucher was the thing to have almost. I think a colleague of mine called it the golden ticket,” said Farley. “So you get this voucher and you think, ‘OK, this is it, I’m going to find a place,’ and then you can’t find a place to take it. It’s extremely scary for people.”

Neighborhood Services Organization in Oklahoma City is running into a similar problem.

Instead of HUD vouchers, they help renters with rental assistance funding through the City of OKC – but they’re still struggling to find places that accept them.

“We’re short 4,500 units of affordable housing,” said Stacey Ninnes, President and CEO of NSO. “As an organization who is trying to prevent homelessness, seeing it, you know, kind of becoming more prevalent is definitely disheartening.”

Those who advocate for Oklahomans who are struggling simply ask that they be given a chance.

“These are members of our community, get them there,” Ninnes said. “These are our neighbors. These are all just like just like you and me.”

Find more information by visiting the Neighborhood Services Organization website and the Mental Health Association Oklahoma website.