Tulsa homeless shelters at point of crisis as they fill beyond capacity

Posted at 4:44 PM, Jan 01, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-02 11:11:12-05

TULSA, Okla. -- All 150 beds will be filled at the John 3:16 shelter this week, and then some.

Right now the dormitories are filled beyond capacity, but that isn't stopping Reverend Steve Whitaker and others at the mission from going out to encampments and urging the homeless to come inside.

"We've removed all limitations of what we can do in here. The powers that be have agreed with us that we have a crisis in our community... so we're a little over capacity right now. That's tongue in cheek. We've got a lot of people here, holy cow, a lot of people here right now," Whitaker said.

Shelters across Tulsa crated an emergency plan, allowing them to host up to 250 people if need be, even if that means some people are sleeping on benches for the time being.

"That is instituted by all the shelters and if we get to the point where we're completely full and there are more women, children, and men than we can help we take them in here at John 3:16, Salvation Army takes women and children, so we could have up to 100 more men here," Whitaker said.

Right now John 3:16 is only housing men, but they are working with the city of Tulsa to change that in the weeks ahead. Whitaker said as they're noticing more women on the streets and as the temperatures drop, adding female facilities is becoming a priority.

"If you don't have home, this is a crisis. This is not a small issue. This is a big issue for us as a community. We need to respond with all the compassion, care, and responsibility that we can," he said.

The shelter was at 110 percent capacity before the cold snap, and staff told 2 Works for You it's straining resources like food, space and manpower. But after years of seeing homeless Tulsans suffer from frost bite, hypothermia, or even death... Reverand Whitaker isn't turning a blind eye.

"For a homeless person, this is just devastating for them. They can't stay out in it. They have to seek shelter," he said.

Outside of cash donations, the biggest need for John 3:16 right now is gloves and socks.

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