Homelessness a growing problem in Tulsa

Posted at 6:22 PM, Mar 10, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-10 19:22:46-05

Police are working to uncover a growing problem in the Tulsa area.

An estimated 400 Tulsans are homeless and that number continues to rise.

Thursday, police broke up a large homeless camp at River Parks near 71st and Riverside.

No charges are anticipated, but more camps are starting to pop up.

“We do have a definite problem in Tulsa with the homeless,” said resident Tom Harrison.

Folks throughout Tulsa like Harrison are starting to take notice, especially throughout public parks, keeping officers in the field pretty busy.

“71st and Riverside…71st and Olympia. Everyday there's folks out there begging, causing traffic problems, and now they're starting to build structures down here,” said Tulsa Police Officer Don Deramus.

“The camps get overgrown and they've got to be cleaned up so they don’t become an eyesore for the city,” said John 3:16 Mission CEO & Senior Pastor Steve Whitaker.

Whitaker says the spike is thanks, primarily, to the sluggish economy and the mild weather. Many of those found throughout town are determined to make it on their own.

“Frankly, they're a little proud to go into the sheltering system and they still want to do the best they can,” said Whitaker.

Whitaker works closely with police every day. He says employment and rehabilitation are the best weapons against the epidemic.

For “trailgoers” like Harrison, that's the most important solution.

“I'm glad to see they're cleaning up what they can, and I'll keep riding,” said Harrison.

In the meantime, Whitaker says residents need to know many of these people are true Tulsans who've fallen on extremely hard times.

“I gotta promise you it's a whole lot more frightening for that person who lays their head on whatever they drag up at night,” he said. “When they buy something, they're paying taxes, it's not much, but they're paying a few tax dollars. And they're our people.”

The energy sector that's taking big hits right now could be partially to blame.

Experts expect the homeless population in the city to increase this summer.

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