OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (KFOR) – Oklahoma City’s homelessness problem appears to be causing headaches for some property owners.
“This has been terribly exhausting. I’ve had very little sleep,” said Franci Looney, who owns land near SW 6th St. and Dewey S Dewey Ave. “I have spent every single day from morning until late afternoon trying to get this accomplished.”
Looney tells KFOR she received a notice from the city in the mail last week.
“It was talking about debris, and they went on to tell me that it was a nuisance and that I needed to get all of this taken care of and cleared off,” said Looney.
The letter added that if she didn’t get it cleared within 10 days, the city would complete the work, and Looney would consequently face a fine.
Looney says she was unsure what the letter was referring to and was stunned to see what her property looked like on Sunday.
“I looked at my property only to find out that there was a complete huge homeless camp that was on the property,” said Looney. “There were extension cords, six-foot ladders… They were burning a fire in a barrel.”
Looney called police, who told the woman on Looney’s property that she needed to move. The woman did move, however she set up camp just a few feet away in the middle of Dewey Ave., according to Looney.
According to Looney, the woman was responsible for a box of human waste that sat in the street for multiple days. Looney said she tried to get someone to move it for days but didn’t have any luck until she told them we were doing a story on the situation.
“’I’ve exhausted so many efforts I could just go on… It’s very disappointing. Our system is broken,” said Looney. “It took me reaching out to KFOR for us to get someone out here to actually get something done.”
As of Wednesday evening, the woman’s belongings had been moved across the street behind a church.
Looney’s property is now free of any debris, but her situation highlights a greater city-wide problem.
“Just playing Whack-A-Mole,” said Dan Straughan, the executive director of OKC’s Homeless Alliance. “We’ve taken a community problem, homelessness, and made it an individual’s responsibility. An individual without the resources to address this social issue. So, when you tell a homeless person ‘you can’t put your camp here, you’re going to have to go somewhere else’ and they do, we have shifted that responsibility onto private property owners and that doesn’t really feel fair to me.”
We also reached out to the city who agrees it’s a huge issue. They sent us the following statement:
“We agree, this is a concern of ours as well. OKC has increased capacity at emergency shelters for nights that are below freezing in hopes people experiencing homelessness stay safe and decrease the chance of fires. We are making an effort to help property owners secure their property. We also are currently expanding street outreach efforts so there are more resources for those unhoused to find shelter and housing resources. These are some of the tools and solutions we are bringing to a complex issue.”
- Lindsay Caits, Homeless Strategy Implementation Manager