NORMAN — The phones at Food and Shelter never stop ringing. The front door never seems to fully stay closed either. It’s a constant struggle for the employees to keep up with the comings and going of clients.
Each call that comes to the agency and each person that walks in is always treated with respect and dignity — something that Food and Shelter always strives to provide for those they serve.
Executive Director April Doshier sees on a daily basis what being homeless can do not only to a person’s attitude on life, but their general well being. So, with that in mind, Doshier is hoping to find
forever homes for the chronically homeless in Norman by the end of 2014.
“That totals about 125 men and women. Honestly, we know we can’t do that on our own,” Doshier said. “All of the agencies in town that provide housing services, Community Action, Salvation Army, Bridges, East Main Place, have joined one team and we are going to be doing community awareness and team building and community building with one vision and one voice.”
Steps have been put into place by these Norman housing services in order to make the goal more attainable, Doshier said.
“First is, as a community of people who believe that this is the right thing to do, not just because Jesus tells us it’s the right thing to do, but we as a blessed community should not have people living on the streets. We have to have one vision and one voice,” Doshier said. “The second thing, and this is probably the most important key to this, is that we need to be able to build skills and resources around people who have struggled with these addictions and mental illness and bad choices for so long. If these folks could tackle these issues on their own, they wouldn’t be homeless, they wouldn’t be struggling. They really need a network of people to stand with them and guide them through this process.”
One of those networks is the Skills Training And Resources for Tomorrow. START began last year when Food and Shelter teamed up with Moore Norman Technology Center to provide an eight week program where individuals can get the skills they need to get jobs. The program teaches interview skills, offers mentorships, job training and more.
“This program is really aimed at giving these people skills to be good, hardworking employees,” Doshier said.
Another key to helping with the vision to end homelessness in Norman is to find more affordable housing. Doshier adds that there are many people living on the streets of Norman that are not employable because of mental illness.
“If you lived on $660 a month on disability, you can not live in Norman. We are partnering with all the other housing providers and the city of Norman and our local HUD office to start leveraging our funds that come into Norman and use those to develop affordable housing that will be operated in a supported housing concept so they will never be living technically on their own. Someone will always be with them,” Doshier said.
Doshier understands that the goal she sees is a bit audacious.
“I really believe that if our community comes together with one vision, that by the end of next year homelessness on a long term chronic basis can cease to exist in this community. But I really believe, and I know this is something our other community partners believe, is that if we all work together as a community to build this kind of solution, that it is possible and they are worth it. It is a goal that benefits our entire community and not just the people who live on the streets.”