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Seeking shelter


More veterans and domestic-violence victims are struggling with homelessness in OKC.

Susannah Waite July 3rd, 2012

Whitney Kirby is looking to a future that includes classes for her GED.

homelessalliance_jke4Whitney Kirby - credit: Jordan Ensminger

The mother of six and grandmother of three has not had an easy path getting to where she is now. She was a victim of domestic violence, which in turn led to homelessness.

“I grew up in a domestic violence home,” she said. “Childhood memories I have include my dad stabbing my mom in the side and her yelling for me to call the police.”

Such horrific scenarios would play out in her own marriage, Kirby said.

In September of 2011, following a violent fight with her husband, Kirby realized it was time to leave.

“I left with the kids,” she said. “I had no place to go and I didn’t take anything with me.”

Kirby is part of a growing population in Oklahoma City; 16 percent of reported homeless are victims of domestic violence.

Although the 2012 “Point in Time” count of the city’s homeless population showed an overall decline of nearly 7 percent, there has been a concomitant spike in homeless subpopulations of domestic violence victims and veterans.

“The statistic that jumps out to me is the doubling of the number of self-reporting domestic violence victims,” said Dan Straughan, executive director for the Homeless Alliance.

With a total of 1,303 “countable” homeless people in Oklahoma City, not including those homeless currently living with friends or family, approximately 12 percent said they were veterans.

“Currently Oklahoma City is the pilot site for a unique, innovative program for homeless vets,” Straughan said. “The program has worked really well and housed over 180 homeless vets.”

Most homeless veterans in these reports are from the Vietnam and Desert Storm eras.

“To solve some of the homeless issues, it really is all about the housing,” Straughan said. “We have public and private funders to kick-start what we call ‘supportive housing.’”

The Homeless Alliance also works with a number of other entities to help homeless people, like those in Kirby’s situation. Kirby sought assistance from several different sources, finding a solid support system at the YWCA.

“The YMCA helped me rebuild myself from the inside out. In January, I got my first apartment, where I live with my kids,” she said.

“I wish more women were aware of the programs there are to help the whole family to get out of domestic violence. It is not OK to live in fear.”
   

 
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