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Tulsa Homelessness Nonprofit Sees Opportunity For Big Change Following Winter Outreach Efforts

Housing Solutions Tulsa
Outreach teams assemble on Jan. 29 for Housing Solutions Tulsa's annual Unsheltered Point-in-Time count.

Becky Gligo, executive director of homelessness nonprofit organization Housing Solutions Tulsa, said responding to last week's stretch of life-threatening cold was an all hands on deck situation.

"We had about 30 people out 'round the clock for almost a week, bringing everybody who would go with them inside," Gligo said.

"Nobody, for about five straight days, had more than two hours of sleep at a time," Gligo said. "It was just constant, and the weather was extreme, and the pressure of knowing this was life or death was extreme."

The mobilization -- given more urgency by the fact that a man experiencing homelessness died in the cold during the early days of the weather emergency -- ended up with at least 415 unsheltered individuals being given hotel rooms and more being brought to shelters, Gligo said. 

In the aftermath, Gligo said, there was more to be done.

"When we began this effort, to be honest, it was about saving lives in the immediate crisis. And then the public really responded to what we were doing and we were able to raise over $1 million in under a week," Gligo said.

"Very quickly, we realized this was an opportunity that we would likely never get again," Gligo said.

On Monday, Housing Solutions opened a consolidated site in a hotel where all of the individuals given hotel rooms around town last month are now being offered rooms. Gligo said the site, currently funded for three months and the location of which is not being released for reasons of privacy for those taking shelter there, will have caseworkers, job fairs and other resources for the people there, all with the end goal of finding them permanent housing. 

"Homelessness is complex, and people have legitimate reasons for not wanting to work with us, and at a certain point we have to respect that. But what we hope that we're doing right now is earning enough trust with the public and with the unsheltered community that when we stick out a hand, they know that we're going to do right by them," Gligo said.

Gligo said Housing Solutions has raised roughly $1.4 million so far since last month, and is attempting to raise a full $2 million by the beginning of May in order to pay for things like rent, transportation, security deposits and pet fees for the people in the hotel.

On Monday, the City of Tulsa proclaimed Friday, March 5th, would be "Homeless Outreach Worker Appreciation Day" in recognition for the work of teams from Housing Solutions and other groups. 

Chris joined Public Radio Tulsa as a news anchor and reporter in April 2020. He’s a graduate of Hunter College and the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, both at the City University of New York.
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