The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

March 4, 2013

Hope Outreach director shares organization’s mission with Rotary

By Robert Barron, Staff Writer
Enid News & Eagle

ENID, Okla. — A few homeless people found refuge from last week’s blizzard with Hope Outreach.

“We opened up a little longer during the snow, and we had about 15 people,” said Matt Lohman, the organization’s executive director, who on Monday spoke to Enid Rotary Club members.

Hope Outreach operates a daytime homeless shelter. The facility has male and female showers and laundry facilities. People without jobs also can go there to prepare for interviews, call prospective employers and use the facility’s address and phone number for job-seeking correspondence.

Lohman said Hope Outreach helps Enid mask the homeless problem, because the people it serves are not standing about in front of businesses. But after 4 p.m., they have to leave, and the organization’s personnel do not know where they go — an unfortunate situation for someone trying to combat alcohol or drug abuse. Lohman said homeless people often end up returning to the same crowd they should be avoiding.

Because of that, he said Hope Outreach plans construction of a full-time homeless shelter.

“It will not be a mansion by any means, but it will be a safe, friendly place to get out of the weather,” Lohman said. “The Hope Center will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

He said the planned shelter is modeled after Oklahoma City’s City Rescue Mission, and will provide people with a bed and a safe place. Hope Outreach is seeking property — about four acres — to build a campus.

Lohman said it is hard to determine the number of homeless people in Enid. One estimate places the number at about 100, but there also are what is known as “couch homeless,” who drift from one person’s couch to another. Some people also have a place to live, but cannot afford water, heat or food.

Lohman said the shelter will be built in phases. The men’s shelter was built first, then women’s. Meals also will be provided

“We expect to be full with the first 100 beds,” he said.

Lohman also discussed Hope Outreach’s other services with Rotary Club members. He referred to the organization as a non-denominational Christian organization, but he said it is not a benevolent ministry. Hope Outreach helps people to learn to be self-sufficient.

He said there are four areas through which Hope Outreach addresses Enid needs: poverty programs, Faith Farm, the thrift store and the daytime homeless shelter.

Hope Outreach also teaches a parenting program, available to Enid residents and Vance Air Force Base personnel. Lohman said the organization tries to break poor parenting cycles, and the curriculum takes parents from birth through high school graduation. One of the tenets of the program is teaching pregnant mothers how to keep their babies healthy.

Faith Farm is a garden area designed for the elderly and those with mobility issues.

“People can get their hands in the dirt and feel useful again,” Lohman said.

Hope Outreach also offer a community care mission that helps people stay in their homes. Those people can do jobs around Hope Outreach to earn money if they can’t pay their electric bills, purchase fuel or buy clothing.

“Most people never expected to be in that situation,” Lohman said.

Lohman said the thrift store provides 98 percent of the organization’s funding.