The Norman City Council authorized a grant Tuesday night to go toward operating a winter warming shelter for Norman’s homeless community.
The city will be utilizing $147,692 of CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act funds from the Oklahoma Department of Commerce Emergency Solutions Grant to locate and operate the new warming shelter. The council approved the item on the consent docket Tuesday night.
This location is similar to the shelter the city operated last year, community development block grant manager Lisa Krieg said.
“We are working with various entities to locate a space approximately 8,000 square feet to serve as a temporary shelter for approximately 50 individuals,” Krieg said. “The operation will be mid- to late October [through] mid-March.”
According to Cleveland County’s Point in Time information as of June 24, more than 266 homeless resided within Norman city limits. As temperatures begin to cool down, these residents will be needing a place to shelter and stay warm.
Norman resident Stephanie Swartzenduber has been homeless most of her adult life. She said the opening of another warming shelter would mean that she would finally have a place to go for the winter.
“The cold is really bad, it’s bad,” she said. “To stay warm, I usually drink beer and sometimes whiskey. I walk around quite a bit and try to stay warm that way.”
Elements such as rain also pose an issue for Swartzenduber and other homeless residents.
“I’ve been trying to stay dry, but it’s not happening,” she said. “I just do my best to find some kind of awning to get under in order to stay out of the wet rain.”
Swartzenduber said she can only hope she is able to utilize the warming shelter.
“I hope I get to see that day,” she said. “It’s day-to-day right now, so we’ll see.”
Norman Mayor Breea Clark said the city is going to take into account the unique challenges the city's homeless population faces when selecting a location for this warming shelter.
“We are excited to have funding to make this important community initiative happen again this year,” Clark said.
In the Aug 25 bond election, the failed Proposition 2 would have provided $5 million to construct one or more built solutions intended to assist individuals and families experiencing homelessness in Norman. Function and programming would be determined by ongoing studies on homelessness and housing affordability.
The measure was the closest margin of a yes or no vote with 49.19% for it and 50.81% against.
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