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Homeless Alliance may see funding boost

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Siara Walden prepares food as 84 Hospitality works the kitchen of The WestTown day shelter last week at the Homeless Alliance to make lunch for the shelter's clients in Oklahoma City.    [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman]
Siara Walden prepares food as 84 Hospitality works the kitchen of The WestTown day shelter last week at the Homeless Alliance to make lunch for the shelter's clients in Oklahoma City. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma City’s proposed Fiscal Year 2020 budget increases funding for the Homeless Alliance by nearly a third, providing a significant financial boost for one of the city’s only day shelter of its kind.

“Because the day shelter is really the front door to services in Oklahoma City … the city views it as a valuable asset for our municipal government to fund,” said Dan Straughan, executive director of the Homeless Alliance.

“Most of OKC’s homeless flow through the day shelter.”

The city’s current fiscal year budget — which ends in June — includes $190,000 for the Homeless Alliance to run the shelter that doesn't have requirements to receive assistance, such as passing a drug test or being enrolled in a shelter program.

Last August, an extra $110,000 of supplementary funding was added.

Next year’s proposed fiscal year budget would guarantee all of that money — $300,000 total — is provided to the Homeless Alliance and is included in planned city expenses going forward.

If the budget proposal passes as is, it would guarantee an additional $110,000 to fund day shelter operations, which includes providing breakfast, lunch, showers, computers, a library and connections to other service providers to Oklahoma City’s homeless community.

The main reason the increase was needed is the growing use of the shelter’s resources, Straughan said.

The facility was built to serve about 150 individuals a day, but recently has been serving close to 350 a day.

City funding and engagement has been crucial for the development of current resources for the homeless population, said Jerod Shadid, one of the city’s homelessness program coordinators.

Federal grant money and services are often concentrated in urban areas, so homeless individuals will travel to cities to find help. Shadid helps coordinate funding, create policy, develop and direct services among various organizations and plan the annual Point In Time count to track the number of homeless individuals.

“The total number of homeless in Oklahoma City has started to come down significantly in the Point in Time count, and I think that has to do with these coordinated efforts,” Shadid said. “It’s a serious team effort to make sure all this gets done.”

Straughan said the city has been close partners with the Homeless Alliance, which is a nonprofit, since it began operations in 2004.

Through a grant, the city was the main financial backer during construction of the Homeless Alliance’s WestTown campus, which opened in 2011 and houses the day shelter and a comprehensive resource center. And when the Oklahoma City Police Department first developed its Homeless Outreach Team in 2014 it had offices at the WestTown campus.

While increased funding can help, homelessness will still be a problem until a long-term affordable housing solution can be enacted, said Ward 6 councilwoman JoBeth Hamon.

“I love to see more funding for these types of services, but even before that, I want to see more funding for affordable housing coming from the city,” Hamon said. “That is a gap that so many of our social services providers say is the base need.

“We can provide a shower during the day or access to mental health care or a job, but if they are still living outside, it’s not a long-term solution.”

Both the city and the Homeless Alliance would like to see the shelter open seven days a week, Straughan said.

Currently, in addition to weekdays, the shelter is open every other Saturday and one Sunday a month for lunch. He estimated it would take another $300,000 to expand hours, which he hopes to raise through private donations.

“When we’re hosting 350 people experiencing homelessness every day, they’re still homeless on Saturday and Sunday,” Straughan said. “We’ve made a lot of progress in the last few years, but there is still a long way to go.”

The city council will hold two budget review sessions in the coming weeks before a final vote on June 4.

Hamon said she doesn’t foresee any immediate roadblocks for the funding increase.

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<strong>Straughan</strong>

Straughan

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-24b8f7e9e6c2fe7df9edaeb266fd982c.jpg" alt="Photo - Straughan " title=" Straughan "><figcaption> Straughan </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-6c81392fd072a3d40651a93bf86c1507.jpg" alt="Photo - Siara Walden prepares food as 84 Hospitality works the kitchen of The WestTown day shelter last week at the Homeless Alliance to make lunch for the shelter's clients in Oklahoma City. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] " title=" Siara Walden prepares food as 84 Hospitality works the kitchen of The WestTown day shelter last week at the Homeless Alliance to make lunch for the shelter's clients in Oklahoma City. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Siara Walden prepares food as 84 Hospitality works the kitchen of The WestTown day shelter last week at the Homeless Alliance to make lunch for the shelter's clients in Oklahoma City. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure>
Kayla Branch

Kayla Branch covers county government and poverty for The Oklahoman. Branch is a native Oklahoman and graduate of the University of Oklahoma. She joined The Oklahoman staff in April 2019. Read more ›

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