The Norman Transcript

Opinion

March 18, 2014

Twenty-two years of aiding homeless

NORMAN — Some societies are measured by how well they take care of the most vulnerable of their population.

Norman’s East Main Place, a homeless shelter open to all and in operation since 1992, has closed its doors for good. The former Central State Hospital employee dormitory was converted into 21 apartments. A separate building next door was never occupied by EMP.

The perfect storm of funding cuts and an ancient boiler that didn’t make it through the winter pushed the board’s decision to lock up. Some tears were shed by former residents who visited the facility for the final time at a reception Thursday.

Over the years, East Main Place has served more than 2,700 men, women and children. It provided a temporary place of refuge for those caught up in the web of joblessness, poverty, divorce or addiction. Residents had to take care of outstanding criminal warrants or bills and attend counseling and regular meetings.

Churches and families donated furniture for the renovated dormitory rooms. Clients could usually take it all with them when they eventually moved out to their own place.

The closing of East Main Place coincides with the formation of One Vision, One Voice, a coalition made up of various local agencies that address homelessness and the accompanying problems. The philosophy of housing first will allow the homeless to have a place to stay while tackling other problems.

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