Though the power may be back on and the freezing temperatures are going away, there are still more ways Norman residents can help their neighbors moving out of last week’s winter storms.
After freezing temperatures left many residents isolated, cold and some without power this past week, Michelle Evans, homelessness program coordinator for the City of Norman, said that she was heartened to see everyone come together to help one another.
“It was a really neat thing to see how everyone came together,” Evans said. “And not just for the homeless, but literally neighbors helping neighbors.”
Through a website called beaneighbor.ok.gov, residents are not only able to ask for help, but offer it as well, Evans said.
“A lot of these neighboring organizations are on this website,” she said. “So anyone who needs literally anything from food to housing to, ‘Hey, I need a generator,’ or ‘[Hey], my power went out,’ they can go on this website and there’ll be an agency or someone that can say, ‘Hey, I may not be able to help you, but I can direct you to [someone who can].’”
In addition to the state wide website, locally there is a Facebook group called “Neighbors 4 Norman” that residents can request help from, Evans said.
“Anyone who needs anything from fixing a busted pipe, to they need someone to clear out their sidewalks so they can get in and out, we’ve seen that, and neighbors just literally coming out and helping one another,” Evans said.
Even though the city offices were closed this past week due to the winter storm, Evans’ division was still open. She had people offering to pick up her employees from their homes and bring them to work, she said.
“I had one employee where a neighbor was like, ‘Hey, I got a four wheel drive or a Jeep and I’m going to make it work,’” Evans said. “I got rides to work too. I had people picking me up [because] I couldn’t get out of my neighborhood.”
Evans also heard of a story of a Norman resident who was running out of food when their neighbor went to the store to get food for them, she said.
“There are so many wonderful stories where I just don’t know if one really stuck out more than the others,” she said. “[It was] just amazing that people would stop, and they didn’t even have to know you, but just would stop and say, ‘Hey, do you need a ride?’ or ‘Do you need food? Let me go do that,’ or ‘You have a busted pipe? Let me come on in and let me help you.’”
Jed Dembowski, vice president of marketing and communications for the United Way of Norman, said that he saw many Norman residents helping their neighbors over the week of frigid temperatures.
“Norman’s a great community,” Dembowski said. “So, a lot of people’s needs were met over the past week [by others in the community].”
Dembowski said that there is still a way for Norman residents to help others by making monetary donations to organizations that are helping those most at risk and in need.
Though there is a moratorium on evictions set in place by President Joe Biden’s administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people are still facing evictions throughout the City of Norman.
“We’ve seen people [disregard] the moratorium on evictions right now, so some people are still trying to deal with that kind of stuff,” Dembowski said. “We’ve been sending those people to our partners at the Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma.”
Since March 15, 2020, there have been 1,706 evictions filed in Cleveland County and 693 evictions granted in the county despite the federal moratorium on evictions, according to OpenJustice Oklahoma, a non-profit that has been tracking evictions across Oklahoma since the COVID-19 pandemic first hit the state.
In spite of this, Norman residents have been coming together and helping those who have been evicted from their homes, lost power, had a pipe burst or were without food during this historic winter storm.
“Norman is an amazing community,” Dembowski said. “They really step up whenever they see a need, and anytime we ask for help they’re there.”