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Count shows increase of people experiencing homelessness in Oklahoma City

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

Oklahoma City released its 2023 point-in-time report, showing a slight uptick in residents currently experiencing homelessness.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development mandates the count, which takes place during the last ten days of January. This year, Oklahoma City’s count took place on Jan. 26.

The report is not meant to serve as a comprehensive analysis of all issues that contribute to homelessness, but instead provides a small look into the population of people currently experiencing homelessness.

Count organizers wrote in a statement that while the number of people counted on that night had increased, it doesn’t necessarily mean homelessness is growing rapidly.

Dan Straughan, executive director of the Homeless Alliance, wrote that organizers believe last year’s count was artificially low, as variables like weather and the time of year may have affected the count.

Program Planner for Oklahoma City’s Homeless Services Jerod Shadid agreed with Straughan, adding that the homeless population is difficult to accurately measure.

“The result from one year to the next may not tell you much but conducting the survey every year and looking at trends over time helps us identify where we need to focus our resources,” Shadid said.

The count took place across five different kinds of locations, including emergency shelters, transitional housing, meal sites, day shelters and street locations like homeless encampments and locations near downtown.

Veterans make up eight percent of the homeless population. Families make up 19 percent, with three in five family members being minors. Unaccompanied youth, classified as people under 25, totaled 11 percent.

448 people, or 31 percent of the population, were unsheltered. 45 percent of unsheltered individuals were experiencing homelessness for the first time.

The count also included use rates of housing solutions and shelters. Of 973 permanent supportive housing beds, 94 percent were in use at the time of the count. 89 percent of the 218 transitional housing beds were full. The 1010 emergency shelter beds were 77 percent in use.

According to the report, Oklahoma County lacks over 4,500 affordable housing units. More no-barrier or low-barrier housing would help Oklahoma City reduce the rate of people experiencing homelessness.

In 2019, voters approved $50 million toward developing affordable housing as part of the MAPS 4 program, which the report expects to help with the housing crisis this decade.

The report states that two people who work full-time and paid minimum wage — $7.25 in this state — cannot afford a two-bedroom rental home without exceeding 30% of their income to be used for rent.

90 work hours a week would be needed to support a two-bedroom rent of $847 on minimum wage, according to the report. For a one-bedroom at $670, a person would need to exceed 70 hours a week to afford rent.

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Peggy Dodd was an intern at KOSU during the summer of 2023.
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