"You must be the change you wish to see in the world."
Formed in July of 2014, the Oklahoma City Police Department Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) took a new approach to addressing the homeless situation in Oklahoma City. Prior to that time, arrests were the only option local law enforcement had at its disposal to deal with the city's homeless population. The team now addresses the problem by connecting the homeless population with housing and other services in hopes of getting them off the streets. The Homeless Outreach Team works in close collaboration with homeless service agencies to provide housing and support options as an alternative to incarceration. This new approach is a real win/win for those living on the streets as well as the City of Oklahoma City. Studies completed by the city show that longer a person remains homeless, the greater the cost to the city. The Homeless Outreach Team is working to turn the tide on the homeless problem in Oklahoma City. Click here for the Cost of Homelessness study conducted by the City in 2010.
The Coordinated Street Outreach Project has been successful since its inception at engaging those in need in our community who are not accessing mainstream social services. The outreach model only works because of the commitment of partner agencies to the coordinated outreach effort. Those partners include: Ice Angels, VA, Red Rock BHS, NorthCare, Hope CSI, Freedom Family Church, Regional Food Bank, City Care, No Boundaries International, Oklahoma City Pet Food Pantry, Expressions Community Center, Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, OK Department of Human Services, RAIN Oklahoma, Catholic Charities, OKCPD, Homeless Alliance, and others.
Mary and Lenny Kaplan are the founders of the Ice Angels, a project of the Mosaic United Methodist Church (formerly a project of Epworth United Methodist Church). Their outreach efforts started with the distribution of ice water to people living on the streets in the heat of the summer. The pair now distributes clothing, food and survival gear to those in need across the metro. The Ice Angels have been a part of the Coordinated Street Outreach Project since the beginning, working alongside other service providers to meet the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of people living in difficult circumstances. Lenny and Mary have also been instrumental in helping people in need find housing and get connected to other much needed services.
The Coordinated Street Outreach Project brings together professionals from multiple agencies and disciplines to meet the needs of youth, adults and families in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area who are street homeless. Outreach teams, comprised of professionals in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, homeless services, and HIV/STD services, travel to locations where people in need reside or congregate (encampments, under bridges, in abandoned buildings, etc.) and provide on-site case management and referral services. With support from the Regional Food Bank, the project provides the city's only mobile food pantry. Food boxes are provided to address the nutritional needs of the individuals served, and as a means of engaging people to evaluate the need for additional services. Many of the people served through the project have been unable or unwilling to access mainstream homeless services. The Project reaches the city's most marginalized to provide them with an opportunity to get off the streets and connect with services.
Street Outreach Partners
be the change
Be The Change is involved in a number of initiatives working to engage youth and young adults from the Oklahoma City community that are in need of housing, mental health and substance use services. The Oklahoma Now is the Time (ONIT) initiative of the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services works to connect at risk transition age youth with mental health, substance use and other support services. ONIT partner agencies are embedded at the Ground Floor Homeless Youth Resource Center and engage with participants in that program to evaluate for service needs. Be The Change also works with the Department on the Oklahoma Young Adult and Youth (O-YAY) initiative; a project designed to engage and assess adolescents and young adults for substance use and/or mental health disorders. The project is a part of the larger Adolescent Recovery Collaborative. Be The Change provides technical support and training on outreach and engagement strategies.
The Oklahoma City Police Department Homeless Outreach Team distributing Christmas stockings and backpacks filled with survival items for people living on the streets of the city. Officers provide much needed items to people in need and then take the opportunity to connect them with service providers to help them access housing and other supports to get them off the streets.