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Winter storm outreach is making a difference in Tulsa's homeless population

Posted at 10:49 PM, Feb 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-26 13:04:00-05

TULSA, Okla. — What is being called the winter storm of 2021 blew many disadvantages into Green Country.

It also created an opportunity for the community to really make a difference in Tulsa's homeless population. Outreach teams pulled hundreds of individuals off the streets and into warm shelters or hotel rooms, which is making it easier for volunteers, community leaders, and caseworkers to connect those suffering from homelessness to a better life.

“Had we not been here, we would’ve been freezing,” Nicole Bryant said from her Tulsa hotel room, where she's spent the past two weeks.

Bryant ran into some trouble in August. Between then and February, she lived in a tent, then a rundown hotel, and finally a warehouse “with no real bathroom."

“There’s a toilet and a mop sink, and that’s what we would bathe in," Bryant said.

Bryant is one of 415 people put into hotels during the winter storm. Many more were taken to shelters.

“At the height of the cold, we estimate we had about 10 unsheltered people in Tulsa County,” Becky Gligo, executive director of Housing Solutions, said.

On a normal day, Tulsa’s total homeless count is about 1,000.

“Never again will we have the vast majority of our unsheltered population in a safe place where we can bring them DHS caseworkers to help them get signed up for services, job fairs, diction support services, healthcare, and housing navigation. That’s what the next steps are," Gligo said.

The community donated thousands of items during the weather response and raised over a million dollars. That money allowed for Housing Solutions to sign a lease on a hotel for the next three months.

More money might be on the horizon for housing solutions. Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum, next week, will ask the council to allocate $133,000 in additional coronavirus relief funds to help fight homelessness in the city. To date, the City of Tulsa allocated $3.8 million in coronavirus relief funding toward homelessness.

The good deed of giving also spread to the Bartlesville community. The Westside Community Center there received more than $5,000 in donations. With that money they fed and sheltered two dozen people during the recent harsh winter weather.

“Even in the after wait of this, they’re still supporting through donations, giving opportunities for housing and jobs. So, it’s a continuing effect.” Lorront Carney, executive director of Westside Community Center, said.

Those wishing to donate to the Westside Community Center can call 918-336-6760.

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