OKC Counts Its Homeless Population One-By-One

Thursday, January 29th 2015, 6:30 pm
By: News 9

Oklahoma City is counting its homeless population along with cities across the nation.

Cities that receive federal funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development are required to perform the homeless count.

This is a very difficult population to count, but the more accurate the number, the better services and resources organizations can provide to the homeless of Oklahoma City.

Volunteers hit the streets to count people and families in homeless camps across the city. Other volunteers set up inside at places like the Westtown Day Shelter to count those coming in for hot meals, like Kevin McGee.

“I have good days and bad days, but you know, you learn survival skills being out here,” McGee said.

The headcount helps figure out who is homeless and why so that organizations can design better programs.

Last year's survey showed that on any given day, Oklahoma City has about 1,500 homeless.

The Homeless Alliance said 80% of those are people who are only homeless once, meaning they get back on their feet and no longer need help.

“80% of our homeless population are frankly indistinguishable from you and me if you saw them on the street,” said Dan Straughan, executive director of the Homeless Alliance.

Then there are the chronic homeless people, like McGee, who have barriers to finding permanent housing.

“I've been homeless off and on for about 10 years,” McGee told News 9.

McGee said his struggle is alcoholism, which leads to other problems.

“Being in denial and depression, anxiety,” McGee explained.

The Homeless Alliance expects this year's overall number to go up, but OKC's numbers are going down in specific categories like chronic homelessness and veteran homelessness. The count will not be perfect, but it gets more accurate every year.

“In this business, you can't let the perfect be the enemy of the good, so we do the best count we can,” said Straughan.

The homeless count happened at shelters across Oklahoma City on Thursday and volunteers will make sure they did not count anyone twice.

Results will be released later this year.