For the past 16 years, The Homeless Alliance would spend the last week of January to conduct its annual Point in Time count. Due to safety concerns, the count will not happen in 2021.
“There is just not a safe way to gather up 200 volunteers to go out to camps all over the city on one day,” Dan Straughan with the Homeless Alliance said.
Instead of going to camps and meal sites to count the homeless population, the Homeless Alliance will pull data from shelters and transitional housing facilities.
Last year’s count documented approximately 1,600 homeless individuals. Nearly 600 were unsheltered.
Straughn believes there are even more people living in camps now.
“More are popping up in places that we haven’t seen them so much in the past,” Straughan said. “Anecdotally, it appears the overall numbers are up which is kind of what we expected with the shelters having to reduce capacity.”
Straughan said the Point in Time count is just a snapshot of what homelessness looks like here in Oklahoma City, but without it, programs and funding could be impacted.
“Often, funders, especially institutional funders like United Way or Inasmuch Foundation, they want data. They want to know how bad the problem is so they can know how much funding to throw at the problem,” Straughan said. “Not having that data is limiting.”
The Homeless Alliance received around $4 million from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The organization signed a waiver this year to skip the unsheltered count.
Straughan said there are several organizations that give them donations and many donors understand the struggles.
Agencies are also still putting in work without the count.
The Homeless Alliance, along with other agencies, have increased their street outreach efforts to engage with people who are unsheltered.