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Here and now: Oklahoma’s homeless population

Showing empathy during the holidays and beyond
The Homeless Alliance and United Way of Central Oklahomas separate logos.
The Homeless Alliance and United Way of Central Oklahoma’s separate logos.

Homelessness in America- a phrase coined more times than one can count. We all know the term ‘homeless’, but what does it truly mean?

In Oklahoma, homelessness is more than just a lack of a permanent home. Being ‘homeless’ also means having a family. Holding a stable job, working a nine-to-five. Upholding healthy partnerships and marriages. Serving as loyal pet owners and adoptees.

In the 2023 Point in Time count, an annual study conducted by the City of Oklahoma City, there were 1,436 people experiencing homelessness in the OKC metropolitan area, a rise from 1,339 in 2022. This count was taken on Jan. 26, 2023, with the numbers undoubtedly growing in the over ten months since. 

With the holiday season now official, people often rush to give and donate, but pull out immediately after the New Year hits. This is a trend that needs to end with us.

The Homeless Alliance is one of OKC’s largest homeless shelters, offering daily meals, housing plans, a personalized resource center and several supportive employment programs. The Homeless Alliance also holds the city’s only low-barrier day shelter and recently opened the metro area’s first permanent winter shelter, which is open until April. 

With the Homeless Alliance receiving a new government grant in November, the building can now be open seven days a week, with three free meals a day sponsored by a fully paid kitchen staff.

The Homeless Alliance is readily improving and upgrading to hold OKC’s steadily increasing homeless population, receiving traffic like never before. They- now more than ever- need regular volunteer help. 

Kim Haywood, the Homeless Alliance’s volunteer coordinator for three years now, manages the organization’s volunteer signups, which range anywhere from aiding with meal handouts to sorting donations. She considers volunteers as “a part of the team”.

“They see us staff members all the time here,” Haywood said. “We’re old faces. But with you volunteers coming in and working the counter, they know that people really care about them. Because, you know, for some people, food is love.” 

Haywood emphasizes the hidden humanity behind the homeless population, and that they, like us, have passions and goals in life. Day in and day out, Haywood reminds everyone involved with the Homeless Alliance that homelessness has no specific look or circumstance.

“Homelessness is very complicated,” Haywood said. “People are experiencing homelessness for a variety of reasons. And it’s not always because someone wants to be homeless. It’s not because someone’s mentally ill. It’s not because someone’s been using drugs.”

The Homeless Alliance partners with United Way of Central Oklahoma, a nonprofit organization which meets the specific needs of high-risk Oklahoman families and individuals. They raised more than $17.8 million dollars in 2021 for health and human service campaigns.

Currently, the Homeless Alliance is conducting their annual gift adoption, a program where volunteers choose and buy gifts for a person in need off of a personalized wishlist.

In order to become a volunteer, all you need to do is create an account on their volunteer website, peruse the available shifts and sign up for your desired one. The only qualification is that you need to be 18+. If you wish to volunteer in a group or provide a meal, contact [email protected] for more information.

For the United Way of Central Oklahoma, requirements vary per volunteer session. Presently, they are offering adult Christmas dinner set-up opportunities at the City Care Center’s night shelter and teenage decoration work at NorthCare. 

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About the Contributor
Marcy Conkin, Howler Copy Editor
Hi! My name is Marcy Conkin, and I am a junior at Santa Fe. This is my first year working on the Howler staff, and I have lived in Edmond my whole life! I absolutely LOVE to write, but have a special passion for poetry specifically. I am the copy editor for our school’s yearbook and write articles for a nonprofit organization centered around neurodivergent teens in my free time. 

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