The face of Norman’s homeless population is changing — today the working poor comprises a large portion of the homeless population.
“We see a lot of families who don’t qualify for TANF because they work,” Food and Shelter for Friends Executive Director April Doshier said.
“You see more and more what we call precariously housed which means they’re one paycheck away from homelessness,” said Norman Grant Planner Lisa Craig. “They’re up against that every payday.”
Some who are re-employed may be working at lower paying jobs or working fewer hours than in previous years.
“I think there are still a lot of households that are playing catch up,” Craig said. “Everybody has scaled back a little bit.”
Loss of a job tops the list of reasons people become homeless along with other major life-changers such as serious illness, divorce or a car wreck.
“We actually have two cases we’re working right now where cancer is the primary reason the family became homeless,” Doshier said.
Whatever the cause, homeless populations are some of the nation’s most vulnerable citizens.
“It’s people who don’t usually get a voice,” said Norman City Council member Tom Kovach. “They are citizens, they are taxpayers. A lot of them are working, but they may not have a home. Many of us are one tragedy away from being homeless.”
While solutions can be complex, help is on the way in Norman. Grants recently received by five agencies in the city are aimed at the prevention of homelessness and rapid rehousing. Food and Shelter for Friends received $50,000 while East Main Place, Thunderbird Clubhouse, Women’s Resource Center, and the Salvation Army each received grants for $100,000 under the new program.
“In the summer, we had gotten a special allocation of $84,000,” Doshier said. “We actually got the most money.”