OKLAHOMA CITY - The annual homeless point-in-time count results are in for 2019, and they show that more than 1,200 people in Oklahoma City spend each night without a place to call their own. That is about 9% higher than last year, but organizers of the count say much of that is actually due to the weather. 

“The night of the count, it was really cold,” remarked Homeless Alliance executive director Dan Straughan, “so a lot of people had come in off the street to go to the shelters, where they’re much easier to count.”

The higher numbers provide more accurate information. This data shows that several years of focused efforts on certain homeless populations have made a big impact. Now, it is time for the focus to shift.

The population of homeless veterans has leveled off after years of steady decline. Also, the number of homeless families with children is down for the second year in a row, which is a direct result of city-funded programs.

“We geared it more towards prevention and re-housing,” said the city’s homeless programs planner Jerod Shadid. “That’s the assistance that typically goes toward families, and several years ago, our family numbers were spiking.”

Now, some of that funding is needed elsewhere. Analysts say one-third of the homeless individuals who participated in the count suffer with mental illness, substance abuse, or both.

Shadid said, “We need a lot of people out there with mental health experience, who can spend a lot of time with people and convince them to come in and connect with services.”

The city's new 200-bed low-barrier shelter will open later this year, allowing more of these men and women to access care. Straughan said more real estate is needed now, though, to help them get off the streets for good.

 “The answer to the question of homelessness is in the question,” Straughan said. “It’s about homes.”

This Friday the city will be interviewing new potential partners, and the selection team will specifically be looking at outreach programs. The mayor’s new Homelessness Task Force members will be announced in the coming weeks.