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Tulsa's homeless population spikes, shelters looking for solution

Posted at 4:50 PM, Jul 07, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-07 23:12:38-04

TULSA, Okla. — The newly released "Point in Time Count" numbers show homelessness rose ten percent in Tulsa the last year.

At John 3:16 the staff fear that number will continue to go up. The CEO tells us that his shelter became increasingly full this year, especially after flooding in May.

"Calamity and chaos strikes everybody. Sometimes it comes so quickly there's no adjusting. You're sick and then you don't have a job and then you don't have a car and then you don't have a house. Then you're homeless on the streets," Reverend Steve Whitaker said.

Whitaker has watched this population rise over the last few decades.

During that time Reverend Steve Whitaker says tackling homelessness has become a priority for shelters, Oklahoma's Mental Health Association, and politicians.

The Governor's Council announced a five year program this week to bring down homelessness across the state.

"We're better at doing outreach and triaging people if you will. People that were out in encampments or living on the levy. We had our hands full during the flood times just trying to find everybody, but everybody is doing a good job," Whitaker said.

John 3:16 is currently fundraising to grow from 160 beds to 300. Whitaker fears without resources, the problem will keep growing.

"We've got to make up our mind, what are we going to do with the homeless people? We're either going to see them living on the streets, under our bridges, living in abject squalor... third world living conditions. Or we're going to put our best foot forward and make a difference for them so that they can find their way home," he said.

The CEO is hopeful for expansion in the next two to three years, expanding outreach at John 3:16 to Tulsa's female homeless population as well.

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