Officials: Veterans, young people struggling with homelessness in Oklahoma City

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OKLAHOMA CITY – Merion Foster-Shaw no longer lives on the streets, but that wasn’t the case three months ago when he had to brave the cold temperatures.

“Say another homeless person steals my bed covering for the night, then it’s tough,” he said.

By selling the Curbside Chronicle, he has been able to afford an apartment and get off the streets.

Unfortunately, more than 1,200 others in Oklahoma City are still homeless, according to census results just released. That’s an 8% increase from last year.

“A lot of people came in and were easily counted that we may have missed last year because they were under a bridge we didn’t know about,” Dan Straughan, Executive Director of the Homeless Alliance, said.

The one-day census is required every two years to receive funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, but Oklahoma City leaders do it every year.

“It helps us better spot what areas we need to dump more services into and basically what we are exceeding at,” Jerod Shadid, with the City of Oklahoma City, said.

The key populations are veterans– which make up 10 percent of the homeless population. Young people are also struggling.

“Seventeen percent of our unsheltered homeless had some experience in the foster care system, so clearly we need to be planning better for that group,” Straughan said.

Rising rents are a huge hurdle for every group.

“Our rents are outpacing our incomes and here it looks like it could become a problem faster than others,” Shadid said.

The Homeless Alliance says the silver lining is that the community’s efforts are working.  The 12-year trend shows fewer homeless in the city.

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