Enid residents, government and nonprofit organizations are working now on plans for how to deal with the homelessness issue in our community.
It’s a situation we can’t ignore, and one that is going to take a multi-faceted approach to deal with. Many people who are homeless suffer from mental illness or addiction and aren’t really in a place where they can advocate for themselves. That’s where those people and organizations with the means are stepping in.
In September 2019, CDSA reported 178 total homeless people in north-central Oklahoma, including Garfield County, according to its annual application report to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Of those reported as homeless, 146 reside in emergency shelters. According to the report, 46 were reported as severely mentally ill, 40 reported chronic substance abuse and 43 were unaccompanied youth (most from age 18-24).
Matt Lohman, CEO of Hope Outreach Ministries, said its weekday shelter receives anywhere from 12 to 50 visitors a day, many either chronically or temporarily homeless. He estimated around 100 people have typically made up Enid’s homeless population.
Several organizations in Enid already provide services to help those facing homelessness.
Our Daily Bread provides breakfast and lunch five days a week, and Salvation Army provides an evening meal. Salvation Army also operates an overnight shelter, as does Forgotten Ministries several times a year. Community Development Support Association also operates an emergency shelter. Hope Outreach’s daytime shelter, open on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., offers showers, a washer and dryer, a phone and even a usable mailing address, as well as a volunteer program for ID vouchers.
More assistance is needed, though, and various people and organizations are working on plans to provide help.
City Manager Jerald Gilbert said he would like to financially support long-term efforts by area agencies and nonprofits who already care for the homeless.
He said one-time funding is possible from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, the $2.2 trillion stimulus bill allocated through states. The city of Enid has available a total of about $4.5 million in CARES funding.
James Neal, with Old Catholic Ministries of the Holy Cross as well as the News & Eagle, has taken the lead on organizing a coalition, with the plan to develop a proposal to take back to the city commission. Anyone who would like to help can contact him at HolyCrossEnid@gmail.com.
In addition, Enid Faith Ways, along with Holy Cross, will host an event marking World Homeless Day on Oct. 10 — a “sleep-out” to mimic one night on the streets.
Salvation Army of Enid will serve free meals, provided by Enid Faith Ways, Holy Cross, CDSA and First Presbyterian. A resource fair will be held with the meals from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., in the parking lot of First United Methodist Church.
Those who are willing and able are also asked to fast from their evening meal on Saturday until the evening meal on Sunday, to mirror the resources available to Enid’s unsheltered population.
As we said, none of us can ignore the issue, hoping it will go away. We’ve got to work together to find solutions.