City of OKC: Homelessness down, visibility up

Skyline of downtown Oklahoma City (Dan Snyder/KOKH)

Officials with the City of Oklahoma City say homelessness is down in the metro for the second straight year.

City officials released the results of the annual homeless count on July 12. According to the 'Point in Time' count that took place this January, 1,183 people were counted. Officials estimate the actual number of homeless in the city is four to five times the one-night census, meaning 4,732 to 5,915 people are experiencing homelessness annually in Oklahoma City.

According to city officials, homelessness is down 22 percent since 2016 in Oklahoma City.

“Agencies throughout the community have made major strides at housing people and streamlining processes to end homelessness, among families with children, veterans and chronic populations,” said Dan Straughan, executive director of the Homeless Alliance. “Homelessness is a complex issue that can’t be solved by any single agency. We’ve worked really hard to bring together multiple nonprofits and government agencies to take a team approach to housing people, and it’s working.”

According to the report, 69 percent of the homeless population is male while 62 percent of homeless individuals are white. Veterans account for 10 percent of the homeless population, an 18 percent decrease from last year. Thirty-one percent of the population reports a mental illness.

While the report shows homelessness overall decreasing in the city, officials say visibility is on the rise.

OKC officials say they encounters a 47 percent increase in the number of people who are unsheltered on the night of the 'Point in Time' count.

“Because people who are unsheltered are often the most visible, the community may have the perception that total homelessness is up when it really isn’t,” said Jerod Shadid with the community development division of the City of Oklahoma City’s Planning Department.

Officials have attributed the rise to a lack of affordable housing, access to mental health care and changes at several overnight shelters. The Homeless Alliance and City of Oklahoma City are looking into the lack of emergency overnight shelter beds, but say there won't be an easy or fast solution.

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