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Increase in homelessness linked to housing shortage in Tulsa

Posted at 4:49 PM, Mar 22, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-22 18:33:52-04

TULSA, Okla. —  Housing Solutions annual Point in Time report shows a 6.6 percent increase in homelessness from 2022 to 2023 across Tulsa County.

44% of people who responded said the reason they are homeless is due to the lack of affordable housing.

Rita Chambers told 2 News she spent 5 months being homeless and living out on the streets.

“Being homeless is like nothing you can possibly imagine. I felt like I wasn't even part of this world when I became homeless. It was just like I disappeared,” said Chambers.

She got out of prison in 2020, and said she immediately went into a sober living house.

“The situation with the Christian living homes is nice because you have somewhere to go when you come out, but you have to understand there is a lot of people going in and out and so they will take your stuff,” said Chambers.

Chambers started to drink and said she wasn’t willing to stay sober, and so she had to consider a life out on the streets.

“When I came down here, I had a suitcase because I had to carry it everywhere I had to downsize. So, the suitcase had to go. I wasn't going to carry it everywhere all day long, so I pretty much was down to a bag and nothing else.”

One of the hardest parts for Chambers living out on the street was the sheer loneliness and depression that she felt.

"I was sleeping in a bus stop that used to be down there. I had a sleeping bag and there was a girl found dead right behind it. It was 29 degree weather and she was out here in the cold and I guess she had nowhere to go,” said Chambers.

Eventually, the Tulsa Day Center was able to get her housing and helped her with things like moving and furniture. Although the Housing Solutions Point in Time report includes people like Chambers, she said she is thankful to put her homeless past behind her and look towards her future.

The annual Point in Time count is a survey of people experiencing homelessness in Tulsa County. Some takeaways from the survey:

  • The number one cause reported was lack of affordable housing.
  • The report found that 14% are currently employed.
  • 20.5% of people who responded are tribal.
  • 30% reported mental health struggles.
  • 54% stated domestic violence as a factor.
  • The number one need reported was housing placement.

According to Becky Gligo, Executive Director for Housing Solutions, Tulsa County needs over 12,000 housing units in the next 10 years and not just affordable, but just to meet the demand.
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