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'We are in a crisis': McAlester holds meetings over homelessness

McAlester homeless shelter
Posted at 5:42 PM, Sep 19, 2023

MCALESTER, Okla. — Homelessness and poverty is a major priority for McAlester city government and local non-profits to tackle.

"We are kind of in a crisis right now," Tina Adams of Hope House of McAlester told 2 News. "We are in a housing crisis. Affordable living, affordable adequate living for people is really hard to come by right now everywhere."

Adams said the shelter recently expanded to 17 additional rooms for women, with seven rooms exclusively for families. However, it doesn't have approval to open to those in need yet.

"We're pretty much ready to go. Just since April we've been waiting on the state fire marshal and the sprinkler company to kinda get together and tell us that we can open," she said.

McAlester Mayor John Browne said he noticed the poverty and homelessness levels rising toward the end of the pandemic.

It was after visiting the west coast and seeing issues there that he realized there needed to be town hall meetings like Tuesday's at Eastern Oklahoma State College, the third organized this year by the city.

"If there are things that we can do to alleviate homelessness - to keep people in poverty from becoming homeless and help people in poverty to move to get ahead, we should," Mayor Browne said.

Tammy Randazzo of KIBOIS Community Action Foundation told 2 News veterans experiencing homelessness also peaked.

"We averaged between 15 and 20 in the years prior, and this year alone we've already served over 30 (veterans) so far in (Pittsburg) County. So it's more than doubled," Randazzo said.

Mayor Browne said he's not ruling out requesting state help to fight the problem in the future, but first wants the city to do all it can.

One tool is poverty assistance pamphlets available throughout the city.

Brown hopes more solutions come from conversations at the town halls.

"It's to everybody's benefit to keep people from becoming homeless. Every resident benefits if we can keep people from having to live on the street," the mayor said.

Adams said it'll take the McAlester community and more to stop the spread of poverty and homelessness.

"Homelessness has always existed," Adams said. "It's going to continue to exist until people really start taking action and doing something about it."

The group Homeless Outreach of McAester is planning its own community meeting Thursday to connect those facing homelessness or poverty with the right help.

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