The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Progress 2014

March 15, 2014

Helping break free

Salvation Army offers a hand up to homeless

ENID, Okla. — With all the economic success and business growth in Enid, and with all the progress, there still are those who suffer.

Capt. Ernie Hull with Salvation Army sees it on a daily basis. That’s why Salvation Army is offering a transition program to help the homeless and unemployed gain a path toward self-sustainability.

There currently are three going through the transitional program, which helps clients find a job and save enough money to afford to rent a home. In May, the Salvation Army will launch an effort that will provide brand-new beds and other furniture to those in the transitional program.

There’s more than that who get help though.

“We provided 5,700 nights of shelter last year to folks in this community,” said Hull. “If we weren’t here, there would very much be a void for your homeless population, which a lot of people turn a blind eye to but is a problem in this community.”

Comparatively, he said, Enid has as large of a homeless population as any major city. What people may not realize is homelessness can be a problem veiled by the availability of a friend’s couch or in areas unsafe for human habitation.

“They’re hiding it fairly well,” Hull said.

In Enid, the biggest problem for the homeless is the lack of affordable housing.

“There’s almost nothing available, or when it does become available it’s taken up by these oil field workers in a heartbeat,” he said. “Some of them are homeless because there’s just nothing available to rent.”

And although city leaders have recognized the problem, Hull doesn’t know if they can do anything about it.

“I’m not saying anything bad about the city because it’s not just a problem in Enid. It’s a problem in many places,” he said. “Somehow, the city or other leaders in the city need to come together, and I’m willing to be a part of this, to determine how we can help provide some additional affordable housing.”

He praised the efforts of Community Development Support Association in helping expand lower-cost housing on the east side of Enid with the help of federal funding, but he acknowledged its limitations.

“It’s a big fix. Most of the housing that’s going up is anything but affordable for the folks in our community,” Hull said.

The transitional living shelter, which in May will be officially announced as “Lift Off,” has homeless people staying at least three months in the care of the Salvation Army. They must find at least a part-time job, start a savings program and participate in addiction-recovery programs if necessary.

In three months, the Salvation Army hopes the clients will have saved enough to pay the first and last month’s rent and security deposit on a new apartment.

“That’s the financial goal we set for them. If they don’t make it three months, they’re extended until they hit that target mark,” said Hull.

Along with their programs to offer a hand up to those wanting to break free of homelessness, the Salvation Army also has a thrift shop to help raise funds and support its mission.

In May, it will accept applications for a kids’ summer camp, for ages 6 to 13. The Salvation Army will let the children spend a week at the organization’s camp in rural Tahlequah at no cost.

Hull also said he hopes to start an after-school program in Enid for children of parents or guardians who can’t afford other programs.

“There’s a lot going on at the Army. It’s not just a shelter and soup kitchen,” he said.

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Progress 2014
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