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March 7, 2014

One Vision One Voice seeks to end homelessness by providing homes first, services second

NORMAN — Wendy was sick and tired of being sick and tired. Homeless and addicted, she was tired of sleeping on the streets, tired of her life revolving around finding and using drugs. Perhaps the drugs had quit working for her or maybe they were the only escape, however brief, she had from the struggles and pain of her daily existence.

Wendy was ready to change.

“She had just come to one of our case managers and said, ‘I’m tired of this. Can you help me?’” said Food and Shelter Executive Director April Doshier, who described Wendy as a “sweet young woman who was desperate.”

She didn’t make it that long.

Wendy was found dead of an apparent overdose in a city park earlier this week. Like many Norman residents who have lost their homes, she was mentally and physically vulnerable, living on the edge.

People who have lost their homes are among the most vulnerable population in any city, and the chronic homeless — those who have been homeless for more than a year — are most at risk. They also are a burden on communities. They show up at the hospital emergency room but can’t pay. They seek temporary respite in shelters, which can be costly. They end up in jail.

“Homelessness is expensive,” Doshier said. “It is more effective for communities to invest in solutions.”

Food and Shelter has joined with other Norman homeless service providers in a collaboration to solve the homeless problem. Bridges, the Norman Housing Authority, the Salvation Army, Thunderbird Clubhouse, United Way of Norman, Variety Care, the Women’s Resource Center and Food and Shelter have come together to find solutions. They are calling themselves “One Vision One Voice.”

These agencies are committed to getting people into homes.

“The housing first, services second is a model our entire service community is accepting,” Doshier said.

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