City works to help the home­less

La Semana - - FRONT PAGE / PORTADA -

ENGLISH TULSA, OK -- In or­der to bet­ter as­sess the cir­cum­stances and needs of peo­ple ex­pe­ri­enc­ing home­less­ness, sev­eral or­ga­ni­za­tions will launch a short-term pro­gram this week to con­tact, ed­u­cate and con­nect in­di­vid­u­als to ser­vices, with the goal of im­prov­ing lives and pro­vid­ing greater sta­bil­ity, se­cu­rity and ne­ces­si­ties for home­less in­di­vid­u­als.


The 12-day pro­gram, en­ti­tled Op­er­a­tion Di­rect and Con­nect, will be in ef­fect from Nov. 2 to Nov. 20 and will pro­vide data for long-term strate­gic plan­ning to pre­vent home­less­ness in Tulsa. City of Tulsa part­ners in­clude the Tulsa Po­lice De­part­ment (TPD), Tulsa Fire De­part­ment (TFD), Work­ing in Neigh­bor­hoods and Mu­nic­i­pal Courts; along with two ser­vice agen­cies Men­tal Health As­so­ci­a­tion Ok­la­homa and Fam­ily & Chil­dren’s Ser­vices.

The part­ner­ship be­tween the TPD and so­cial ser­vice is a prac­tice used na­tion­wide that is shown to in­crease data about com­mu­nity needs, re­duce ar­rests and mod­ify sys­tems to de­crease home­less­ness.

“We have a lot of data but we also have a lot of the­o­ries and guesses. Since we are al­ready in­ter­act­ing with peo­ple ex­pe­ri­enc­ing home­less­ness be­cause of calls, we want to take it a step fur­ther. Our team will col­lect more in­for­ma­tion dur­ing this out­reach to bet­ter un­der­stand the mag­ni­tude of the home­less­ness prob­lem and the unique cir­cum­stances of each per­son,” said Tulsa Po­lice Cap­tain Shel­lie Seib­ert. “We want to use that in­for­ma­tion to cre­ate so­lu­tions to help re­duce the num­ber of peo­ple ex­pe­ri­enc­ing home­less­ness, and hope­fully give us more so­lu­tions to pre­vent it. You can’t have so­lu­tions un­til you un­der­stand the prob­lems.”

Seib­ert will lead a team of six TPD of­fi­cers who will join with case­work­ers from Men­tal Health As­so­ci­a­tion Ok­la­homa and Fam­ily & Chil­dren’s Ser­vices to con­tact in­di­vid­u­als liv­ing on Tulsa’s streets.

“The goal of this project is to de­ter­mine the needs of the un­shel­tered/home­less pop­u­la­tion and con­nect them to the ap­pro­pri­ate so­cial ser­vice,” Seib­ert said. “By tak­ing a con­tact and con­nect ap­proach, we hope to re­duce the num­ber of neigh­bor­hood com­plaints re­lated to peo­ple ex­pe­ri­enc­ing home­less­ness while im­prov­ing the lives of all cit­i­zens.”

Seib­ert said TPD are often called out on in­ci­dents or checks re­gard­ing peo­ple ex­pe­ri­enc­ing home­less­ness near neigh­bor­hoods. Part of the goal of this out­reach pro­gram is to also ed­u­cate peo­ple ex­pe­ri­enc­ing home­less­ness on City or­di­nances they may be break­ing that often re­sult in po­lice calls for ser­vice, she said.

Mayor G.T. Bynum said typ­i­cally the types of calls re­ceived are about pub­lic health is­sues and/or low-level non-vi­o­lent pub­lic nui­sance crimes.

“We owe it to our com­mu­nity to un­der­stand these is­sues bet­ter so that we can ad­dress them, pre­vent them and sus­tain qual­ity in neigh­bor­hoods while also cre­at­ing an en­vi­ron­ment where all in­di­vid­u­als are aware of their ac­cess to safety, shel­ter and other ser­vices,” Bynum said.

Mu­nic­i­pal Courts also con­nects peo­ple ex­pe­ri­enc­ing home­less­ness to the Spe­cial Ser­vices Docket, which is a pro­gram that al­lows them to po­ten­tially clear war­rants and fines.

Seib­ert said the in­for­ma­tion from this out­reach ef­fort will pro­vide a crit­i­cal needs as­sess­ment, cap­tur­ing rea­sons for home­less­ness, and de­ter­min­ing ben­e­fi­cial, ef­fec­tive tac­tics and part­ner­ships.

“Tulsa of­fi­cers al­ready are called out on en­force­ment is­sues, tak­ing time and money from han­dling more se­ri­ous calls, so why not have them ac­tively gath­er­ing in­for­ma­tion that can lead to bet­ter re­sults in the fu­ture,” Seib­ert said.

“There are in­stances where neigh­bor­hood com­plaints re­gard­ing a per­son ex­pe­ri­enc­ing home­less­ness re­sults in an ar­rest. When they leave jail they go back to where they were,” she said. “We want to do more to break that cy­cle.”

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