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Homeward bound

OKC’s chronically homeless population receives help from a nationwide campaign.

Greg Horton March 6th, 2013

The Oklahoma City-based Homeless Alliance has joined forces with a national campaign dubbed 100,000 Homes, which seeks to find shelter and medical care for the chronically homeless and medically vulnerable.

“The program takes advantage of existing assets, so very little new money is actually needed,” said Dan Straughan, executive director of Homeless Alliance. “The goal is to get them to a place where we can concentrate our resources.”

More than 100 people volunteered in January to conduct surveys of the metro’s homeless population to identify those with the most pressing medical need. Teams scoured the streets beginning at 4 a.m. for three consecutive days.

The result was the documenting of 149 cases, but Straughan said he suspects the actual number is most likely 230.

“There are still people out there who haven’t heard about the campaign or who haven’t been surveyed,” he said.

Clayton Bahr, a wine representative in Oklahoma City, was among the volunteers. His team visited two homeless encampments, for which he declined to give locations, and interviewed people on the street.

“They were distrustful, but in a jovial sort of way,” Bahr said. “Of course, no one likes to be awakened at 4 or 5 in the morning, so I’m sure that played a part in some of their reticence, too.”

The surveys included questions about why the people are homeless, how long they have been homeless, and their overall health. Results were returned to Homeless Alliance for analysis.

One of those identified is Lisa Porter, a widow and a mother of three.

Her husband died of cirrhosis last year, leaving her financially unable to continue payments on the family’s house.

Porter herself became ill in August 2012. She was placed in emergency housing for 90 days, but the funds soon ran out.

Thanks to 100,000 Homes, however, she recently moved into a new home.

“I told the interviewer that my goals were to get healthy, get an education and get a job,” Porter said. “The house will make it possible for me to get healthy and possibly get my old job back.”

Straughan said the goal is to get seven chronically homeless and medically vulnerable people off the street until they are all housed.

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