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New Center for OKC Homeless

Filed by Michael Cross in Feature, Local News, News.
August 29, 2011

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Oklahoma City is taking a major step in its ten year plan to end homelessness in the metropolitan area.

People living in the streets and those who are staying with friends and family now have a one-stop shop to get all the resources they need to get back on their feet.

The WestTown Homeless Resource Center won’t have its grand opening for another week, but people are already getting help.

Dontrell, Daniel and Keyshawn are passing the time in the play area of the main lobby while their mom tries to get help for her bills.

The new 17,000 square foot building on northwest 3rd and Virginia in Oklahoma City houses several different agencies to help the neediest individuals and families.

44-year-old Robert Tereck, an Air Force veteran heard about the center at his church.

“My pastor told me about homeless alliance. He said it’s a brand new building opening up and he referred me over here to get a section 8 voucher.”

Tereck got laid off from his job at Integris Baptist in May and has been living in his mother’s garage.

The Resource Center includes agencies like Helping Hands, Legal Aid, Positive Tomorrows, the YWCA and more.

Dan Straughan, the executive Director of the Homeless Alliance, says in the past those needing help might have to go to ten different places.

“If they had transportation, it would still take them forever to navigate that system, and if they were relying on public transportation or friends to get them to their appointments it just wouldn’t work.”

The Homeless Alliance began this project over five years ago using more than $6 million in grants from the federal government as well as private organizations.

When putting it together, Alliance officials went to similar centers in Los Angeles, Houston, Las Vegas and Atlanta.

Straughan says those facilities had a mall like atmosphere where people could get help, but there was no coordination between agencies.

He says this center is different and very unique.

“It’s as if you went to Dillard’s, looking for a 10-inch skillet, and the Dillard’s guy didn’t direct you to Brookstone, he went over to Brookstone, got the skillet and brought it back to you.”

Any given day 1,300 homeless people walk the streets of Oklahoma City.

That’s where the other half of the WestTown Campus comes in.

Next door to the center, a nearly 13,000 square foot facility provides protection from triple degree heat.

City Care runs the WestTown Day Shelter, and director Michael Milner says the first day shelter in the metro since 1997, has been welcomed by the city’s homeless.

“In terms of the investment that’s been made in the building, it being a good quality facility that’s been really appreciated and obviously the food as well we do breakfast in the morning and lunch and that’s a big need for the population that come here.”

Besides breakfast and lunch the shelter also provides showers, lockers, a barber and even a computer lab and library.

Every other Saturday food for the Homeless is provided by Mayflower Congregational Church.

Mayor Mick Cornett who has been pushing the ten-year-plan to end homelessness says he hopes the new center will bring in more people from the faith based community.

“I think an organization like this and constructive cohesive unit like this shows that we’re on the right track and it’s a group effort. In Oklahoma City it’s important to be part of a group effort and that’s what this shows.”

Back in the waiting area, Robert Tereck says agents worked hard to get him into an apartment and his life moving in the right direction.

“This place is a very big blessing and I hope it can be a very big blessing for other people that might be in the same situation as us that might just need a little bit of help until they can get back on the feet.”

The buildings were both built with green technology including geo-thermal heating and air which means the July electric bill for the 17,000 square foot resource center was only $1,100.

The official grand opening is next Thursday September 8th.

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