Warmth needed 

While Oklahoma City coat drives are in full force, nonprofit leaders say the need is still great.

click to enlarge Forty-nine-year-old Linda Debard visits the day shelter at The - Homeless Alliance of Oklahoma City. She is in need of a new winter coat. - ALEXA ACE
  • Alexa Ace
  • Forty-nine-year-old Linda Debard visits the day shelter at The Homeless Alliance of Oklahoma City. She is in need of a new winter coat.

On a sunny but chilly afternoon in late November, 49-year-old mother of four Linda Debard said what so many of us say during this time of year.

“I’m cold,” she said.

But Debard didn’t confess to the sensation with a smile on her face, gloves on her hands or a coat on her back. She is one of 350 homeless Oklahomans who pass through the day shelter at The Homeless Alliance of Oklahoma City on any given day, spokeswoman Kinsey Crocker said.

Crocker said it’s difficult to determine a hierarchy of needs for the city’s homeless population, especially when temperatures drop.

“Our first priority is to get our guests off the streets,” Crocker said. “Research has shown that once people have a safe and secure place to live, they are more likely to be successful in achieving other goals like getting sober or attaining employment.”

Last year, the organization secured housing for 715 of the city’s estimated 5,000 homeless individuals. Homeless Alliance accepts donations to ensure that other needs are met as well.

Like other nonprofit organizations within the city limits, Homeless Alliance is in need of winter coats.

Forty-year-old Darrell Smith said that while he’s thankful for the organization’s day shelter, it’s the night that’s on his mind.

Having been homeless since his grandmother’s death in 2012, Smith said OKC streets have served as his bed on many nights. While he currently resides in a 24-hour shelter operated by The Salvation Army Central Oklahoma Area Command, he said his stay could expire soon due to the organization’s term limits.

Salvation Army spokeswoman Traci Jinkens said like many other shelters, The Salvation Army allows individuals to stay within its overnight shelter for 60 days while occupants work with a case manager to secure housing or employment.

“Their stay period is determined on a case-by-case basis,” Jinkens said. “If they have shown improvement and cooperation, they can certainly stay longer.”

Jinkens said The Salvation Army of Central Oklahoma has teamed up with local news station KFOR Channel 4’s Brad Edwards Warmth 4 Winter Coat Drive and will be accepting coat donations until the spring.

Memories of cold nights on the streets of OKC are enough motivation for Smith to keep a roof over his head.

On especially cold nights, he said, a winter coat was a godsend.

“This is the best one I’ve ever had,” he said of his black, wool, button-up peacoat.

Smith, who stands four feet, five inches tall, said his height came in handy after his friend accidently shrunk his coat in the dryer.

“He gave it to me when he realized it didn’t fit him anymore,” he said.

Crocker said Homeless Alliance doesn’t have a goal of meeting a certain amount of coats donated but it can never receive too many.

The Curbside Chronicle, the organization’s employment service, partnered with Insight Creative Group to host a coat drive for The Chronicle’s 100 vendors. Coats can be donated in the store or placed outside the company’s building during weekends and evening hours.

“People ask me all the time, ‘What if someone steals a coat that’s been donated?’” Insight Creative Group content manager Lisha Dunlap said. “I tell them that if someone steals a coat, that means they needed it and eventually, hopefully, a coat would have made its way to them anyways. These coats are there for the taking.”

Dunlap said all extra coats go to Homeless Alliance.

click to enlarge Forty-year-old Darrell Smith poses with his favorite winter coat at The Homeless Alliance of Oklahoma City. - ALEXA ACE
  • Alexa Ace
  • Forty-year-old Darrell Smith poses with his favorite winter coat at The Homeless Alliance of Oklahoma City.

Big need

The need for winter coats is felt even by Oklahoma’s youngest, Oklahoma City public school advocate Mary Mélon said.

Mélon serves as the president of the nonprofit organization The Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools, which supports the city’s students through corporate and private donations. The foundations Coat-A-Kid program supplies new coats for Oklahoma City Public Schools students through monetary donations that can be made online.

Donations begin with a $20 contribution to cover the cost of one coat, Mélon said.

With 90 percent of Oklahoma City public school students living in poverty, Mélon said it’s critical that donations are made to ensure that each child has a winter coat that will keep them warm when temperatures drop and the children have to wait at bus stops, walk home from school or play outside.

Despite raising more than $50,000 already, Mélon said $18,000 is still needed to meet the foundation’s goal of $130,000. A thousand students are still in need of winter coats.

Visit okckids.com/donate

Coats hang on a rack in a hall at The Homeless Alliance of Oklahoma City. - ALEXA ACE
  • Alexa Ace
  • Coats hang on a rack in a hall at The Homeless Alliance of Oklahoma City.

When making a donation to The Salvation Army of Central Oklahoma through KFOR’s Brad Edwards Warmth 4 Winter Coat Drive, new or gently used coats can be dropped off at the following locations:

KFOR-TV News 4
444 E. Britton Road

The Salvation Army – Oklahoma City
1001 N. Pennsylvania

Cultivar Mexican Kitchen
714 N. Broadway Ave.

First United Bank
512 N. Broadway Ave.

Kamp’s 1910 Café
10 NE 10th St.

Schlegel Bicycles
900 N. Broadway Ave.

Twisted Spike Brewing Company
1 NW 10th St.

Waters Edge Winery-OKC
712 N. Broadway Ave.

Legacy Cleaners
4917 N. Western Ave., Oklahoma City
1531 E. Second St., Edmond
1201 NW 178th St., Suite 125, Edmond
1208 S. Broadway Ave., Edmond
805 W. Covell St., Edmond
16504 N. May Ave., Edmond

Midwest City YMCA
2817 N. Woodcrest Drive, Midwest City

Earlywine Park YMCA
11801 S. May Ave.

Mitch Park YMCA
2901 Marilyn Williams Drive, Edmond

Rankin YMCA
1220 S. Rankin St., Edmond

North Side YMCA
10000 N. Pennsylvania Ave.

Bethany YMCA
3400 N. Mueller Ave., Bethany

Rockwell Plaza YMCA
8300 Glade Ave.

Venturis Clinic
7917 N. May Ave.

Akin’s Natural Foods
2370 W. Memorial Road
2924 NW 63rd St.

Coats can be picked up by anyone with a photo ID and proof of residency. Homeless individuals are encouraged only to show a H.NET ID card. Pick-up times are 9-11:30 a.m. and 1-3:30 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays, 9-11:30 a.m. and 1-4 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays and 9-11:30 a.m. Fridays at The Salvation Army of Central Oklahoma, 1001 N. Pennsylvania Ave. Call 405-246-1100.

Donations to The Homeless Alliance of Oklahoma City can be made with monetary contributions given on the organization’s website, homelessalliance.org, or through coat donations. Coats can be dropped off at Insight Creative Group, 19 NE Ninth St. during business hours (8 a.m.-5 p.m.) or left on the rack outside.

To give a monetary contribution that will go toward the purchase of a new coat for an Oklahoma City Public Schools student, visit okckids.com/donate.

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