The Norman Transcript

Opinion

December 28, 2012

Could old jail become shelter for homeless?

NORMAN — County commissioners are pondering the future of the former detention center adjacent to the county’s office building. The structure is about 30 years old but was deemed too small to take care of our growing prisoner population.

Ideas range from storage space to conversion to a temporary holding facility for prisoners waiting court sentencing. If it is demolished, commissioners have discussed surface parking or construction of a multi-level parking garage.

A reader who has followed the county’s discussions suggests turning the old jail into a temporary shelter for the county’s homeless population. Food and Shelter has some apartments but on cold nights arranges rooms in local motels and keeps its doors open. The organization also is planning to build a larger facility.

Food and Shelter serves about 180 to 200 people every day for meals. Its 25 cots are full every evening. The suggestion of using the jail as a shelter should be considered. It could be converted but would need some major renovations. Perhaps an existing nonprofit could lease the space from the county. The location, a block from Food and Shelter, is ideal.

When new Commissioner Darry Stacy takes office next week, another discussion of the building’s future is needed.

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