Temporary OKC Winter Shelter reports final results spotlighting community need

Temporary OKC Winter Shelter reports final results spotlighting community need

By Darla Shelden, Metropolis Sentinel Reporter —

OKLAHOMA CITY – The short-term Willard Winter Evening Shelter, created to fill a spot in shelter beds brought on by COVID-19 in the course of the coldest winter months, has reported optimistic last outcomes. The shelter, operated by the Homeless Alliance and Psychological Well being Affiliation Oklahoma inside the previous Willard College constructing served 1,120 unduplicated folks.

The Willard College Shelter, situated at 1400 NW third Avenue(3rd St. & McKinley) was opened on January 15, 2021, with funds supplied by the Division of Housing and City Improvement by way of the Metropolis of Oklahoma Metropolis. With a short lived zoning allow from the Metropolis and a short-term lease on the constructing coming to an finish, the shelter closed its doorways on April 1. 

Of the greater than 1,100 individuals who stayed on the Willard College Shelter, 27 % reported psychological sickness, 20 % bodily disabilities, 15 % three or extra co-occurring disabilities, 23 % had been experiencing home violence, 32 % had been chronically homeless.

The shelter averaged 144 folks every evening.

When the shelter opened, the Metropolis of Oklahoma Metropolis Homeless Companies, Homeless Alliance and Psychological Well being Affiliation estimated a capability of 150 folks.

Weeks after opening, Oklahoma noticed among the coldest temperatures in historical past. The acute climate required the organizations to extend workers capability, add cots and open a further flooring of the constructing. On its highest capability evening, the shelter served 276 folks. 

“Folks would have died that week had been it not for this shelter and the homeless outreach workers who labored tirelessly to get folks inside,” mentioned Jerod Shadid, program planner for the Metropolis of Oklahoma Metropolis’s Homeless Companies who led the Metropolis’s involvement with launching the shelter.

“The shelter served an vital position this winter, however none extra vital than in the course of the February winter storm.” 

To assist restrict the unfold of the virus, in a single day shelters all through the group needed to lower the variety of beds they sometimes provide. Whereas permitting for social distancing, the shelters had been unable to flex their capability by including further cots within the winter. This lower in shelter beds is what prompted opening the Willard College Shelter.

With declining COVID-19 circumstances mixed with rising vaccinations and extra security protocols together with UVC lighting, shelters like Metropolis Rescue Mission, Grace Rescue Mission, Jesus Home and Salvation Military are slowly beginning to enhance capability.

Metropolis Care opened a brand new low-barrier evening shelter on April 6, including 128 beds to the group’s in a single day shelter efforts. Individuals who had been staying on the Willard College have been directed to different shelters. 

Nonetheless, advocates say there should not sufficient assets to handle the problem of homelessness in Oklahoma Metropolis. 

The 2020 Level in Time Report confirmed 1,573 “countable” individuals who had been experiencing homelessness in Oklahoma Metropolis on the evening of the rely. Of that quantity, 54 % had been staying in a shelter, 11 % in transitional housing, and 35 % had been unsheltered. 

“On the time of the rely, which was taken earlier than the pandemic, Oklahoma Metropolis had 1,573 folks experiencing homelessness and round 900 shelter beds,” mentioned Shadid. “COVID diminished these mattress numbers by round 30 – 40 % as shelters made modifications to accommodate CDC distancing tips. So, we needed to act shortly and discover a facility to make up most of that misplaced capability and convey it as much as code earlier than the worst of the winter temperatures arrived.

“Thankfully, we had nice companions in Psychological Well being Affiliation and the Homeless Alliance to get it up and operating and the total assist of the Mayor and Metropolis Council to grant an emergency allow,” Shadid added.

“That allow saved lives this winter and the Affiliation and the Alliance had been in a position to get it open and staffed with little or no time to take action,” he mentioned.

Dan Straughan, govt director of the Homeless Alliance, mentioned, “Even when there have been sufficient beds to satisfy the wants in our group, there are lots of causes folks received’t go to a shelter. It may be scary to remain in a congregate atmosphere with different people who find themselves in disaster. Some folks might have had a destructive expertise at a shelter, don’t wish to go away their campsite, the shelter doesn’t enable pets — the record goes on.”

Advocates of the shelter say that “much more vital than shelters is secure, respectable and inexpensive housing matched with wraparound companies in the neighborhood.” 

“Shelter beds are vital to provide folks a secure place to go in an emergency, however housing paired with life-changing companies in the neighborhood is the answer to homelessness,” mentioned Greg Shinn, Affiliate Director with Psychological Well being Affiliation Oklahoma.

“Oklahoma Metropolis, whereas thought of by many as an inexpensive place to reside, lacks sufficient really inexpensive housing items to satisfy the wants of individuals under the poverty line,” he continued. 

In keeping with the latest housing wants evaluation, taken in 2015, Oklahoma County lacked 4,500 items of inexpensive housing. 

“The excellent news is due to years of collaboration, native organizations are doing a greater job of coordinating and housing folks, we simply want extra of it,” mentioned Straughan. “And as a group and state, we additionally must get to among the core points that result in folks shedding their properties within the first place. Entry to well being care and psychological well being care, incarceration charges, schooling, low wages, poverty – all of this stuff feed into folks shedding their properties.” 

Shinn famous, “Greater than 300 folks staying on the short-term shelter report psychological sickness. As a society, is that what we wish for folks? We would like homeless shelters and prisons to develop into de facto psychological well being care amenities? It’s not okay. Extra must be performed.”  

For extra details about the Homeless Alliance, go to homelessalliance.org.  To study extra concerning the Psychological Well being Affiliation of Oklahoma, go to mhaok.org.

The Willard College Shelter, operated by the Homeless Alliance and Psychological Well being Affiliation Oklahoma inside the previous Willard College constructing served 1,120 unduplicated folks. Picture supplied.
Weeks after the Willard Winter Evening Shelter opened, Oklahoma noticed among the coldest temperatures in historical past. Picture supplied
Of the greater than 1,100 individuals who stayed on the Willard College Shelter, 27 % reported psychological sickness, 20 % bodily disabilities, 15 % three or extra co-occurring disabilities, 23 % had been experiencing home violence, 32 % had been chronically homeless. Picture supplied.

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