Updated: Apr 24, 2020
By Isabela Alicia Sida | Edited by Asusena Gomez Fuentes
HOMELESSNESS IS BECOMING A GROWING ISSUE, ESPECIALLY IN TULSA. TULSANS NEED TO SUPPORT THE HOMELESS COMMUNITY.
Part one of a two part story:
Oklahoma is ranked 17th in the amount of people labeled chronically homeless in the United States according to a study done by the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness.
Bryan Young, Community Relations Coordinator at the Tulsa Day Center, said “We can really kind of talk about Youth Services from three angles; at least 30% of teenagers and young adults that experience homelessness are young people who are in the foster care system and they aged out of the system when they turned 18.”
As Young explains, after young adults age out of the foster care system at age 18, they are unable to find a stable home. Subsequently, young adults are forced to support themselves independently without the financial or parental means.
With little support, youth often feel alone and challenged with living on their own.
“About 40% of youth identify as LGBT. Something we see frequently as well, like LGBT youth who have moved to Tulsa from small rural country communities where they didn’t really feel acceptance there and didn’t feel like there was opportunity there. And they just thought, ‘Hey, if I moved to a bigger city like Tulsa, it will be more accepting, there will be more opportunities, and I can make it.’ But unfortunately, they didn’t have the skills and the financial resources to make it.”
Young also explains that youth homelessness could also be factored by “young people experiencing significant mental health challenges, substance abuse issues, abuse or neglect at home, or a combination of these things.”
The Youth Services of Tulsa hope to educate youth and parents the most to prevent homelessness and ensure safety. Young says he often serves as a public face for the Youth Services by going “out in the community delivering community education to teenagers and to parents of teenagers.”
Co Edwards, Volunteer Coordinator at the Tulsa Day Center, says that they have seen an increase in the amount of homelessness with 300-400 adults, 30% women and 68% men. Edwards also explained that at the end of 2019, they were 60% white, 68% black, 5% Native American, 2% Chinese, and 2% Mexican.
The Tulsa Day Center has eight case managements, including bilingual staff. Edwards says, “What they're doing initially is working with the client in a very kind way, they’re gonna ask, ‘what you are doing here?’ But more importantly, how can we get you out? We’re kind of like a hospital because we're going to take care of the homeless while they’re here, but do everything we can in order to get them out of here.”
“We've had people in our shelter that are homeless with their PHD. I would love to see us keep stats on what the highest education would be. You would be surprised because homelessness can happen to anybody...” Edwards said.
The Tulsa Day Center houses an average of 1 person per day. Clients get a starter basket and choose a picture on Co Edward’s office wall to hang in their new home.
Homelessness can happen to anybody, no matter their race, ethnic background, mental health, and/or level of language.