The Norman Transcript

January 24, 2013

Higher homeless count expected

By Jessica Bruha
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Cleveland County is conducting an annual homeless count today to provide a snapshot of the number of individuals and families in the area that are considered homeless, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The count began at midnight Wednesday and will continue until midnight today.

“It allows us to see each year whether we are making headway,” said city of Norman grants planner Lisa Krieg.

Food and Shelter Executive Director April Doshier said she expects the count to rise this year, based on the increased requests in services her organization is receiving.

Doshier said a lot of people have been coming into Norman for mental health treatment, and with the larger correctional facility, more people are being released in the streets.

Krieg said the number of homeless people in the county has remained fairly constant for the past few years, coming in around 600.

The count will not only include the number of those spending the night at shelters but also those who go to the shelter for noon or evening meals, those known to be living in encampments and those who call in who may have been “flying under the radar” traveling from couch to couch for shelter, Doshier said.

Those spearheading the count also will receive information from law enforcement, such as Norman and Moore police and the Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office, if officers come into contact with someone during the 24-hour period. The Department of Human Services also will analyze clients and ask questions that would indicate homelessness, Krieg said.

Each shelter will receive a form to fill out, including information such as age, basic demographics and household composition. Doshier said entities taking the count also will ask individuals and families how they became homeless and what they’ve done to try to get out of homelessness.

“Their stories are human stories just like yours and mine. They’re eclectic and different and real,” she said. “Getting to know who these people are is probably the most important thing at this point in time.”

Doshier said the count may help residents realize they have neighbors right now who are homeless or could be homeless at any given time. In many cases, individuals or families may have been skirting a line of homelessness for a long time.

“It just takes one blow up in a relationship or one burned bridge,” she said.

While Doshier is expecting an increase in the number of homeless this year, Krieg said this past year, the definition of being homeless has changed, which may effect the number.

Typically, a public schools liaison reports the number of children in the school district who are considered homeless. The school district’s report will be more of an asterisk included with the data this year, she said.

“There are anywhere from 200 to 250 children reported by the school district,” Krieg said. “When you think of 600 and take 200 off of that, you’re looking at 400 (homeless).”

The new definition of homelessness went into effect Jan. 4, 2012. The definition, according to HUD, includes four categories.

The categories include:

· Literally homeless — An individual or family who lacks a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence or someone exiting an institution where he or she resided for 90 days or less, such as an emergency shelter.

· Imminent Risk of Homelessness — An individual or family who will imminently lose (within 14 days) their primary nighttime residence with no other permanent housing options available.

· Homeless under other Federal Statutes — Unaccompanied youth (under 25) or families with children and youth who do not otherwise qualify as homeless under this definition. This includes not having permanent housing within the past 60 days, experiencing persistent instability and continuing this status for an extended period of time.

· Fleeing/Attempting to Flee DV — Any individual or family who is fleeing or attempting to flee, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault or stalking.

To contact Food and Shelter, call 360-4954 or to contact The Salvation Army in Norman call 364-9910.

Jessica Bruha

366-3540

jbruha@normantranscript.com

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