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Annual OKC Homelessness Survey Partially Cancelled Due To COVID-19

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Kateleigh Mills / KOSU
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Volunteer surveyor, Jennifer Sylvester, attempts to make contact with people experiencing homelessness in Oklahoma City for the Point in Time survey in 2020.

The risks from COVID-19 have shut down part of an annual, one-day survey to count Oklahoma City’s homeless population.

The 'Point in Time' survey, which helps gather data on people staying in overnight shelters, transitional housing and unsheltered, has been conducted in Oklahoma City every January since 2003. The survey is required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for communities to receive Homeless Assistance grants.

Homeless Alliance Executive Director Dan Straughan said counting of those sheltered will continue, but the unsheltered population will not be counted this year due to COVID-19.

“We’d be putting those homeless people at risk and might be putting the volunteers at risk and so we just did not feel like there was a safe way to do an unsheltered count,” Straughan said.

Straughan said not having that detailed data from the unsheltered surveying will make requesting aid for groups like homeless families and veterans more difficult.

Last year’s survey found a total of 1,573 ‘countable people’ experiencing homelessness in Oklahoma City. They found that 54% were staying in a shelter, 35% were unsheltered and 11% were in transitional housing.

In order to meet safety practices such as social distancing and mask-wearing in the fight against COVID-19, many homeless nonprofits limited the number of people in their day shelters in order to spread them apart safely. This is one of the reasons, Straughan said, that he expects the numbers for unsheltered groups to increase.

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