In the 1960s “power to the people” was a popular phrase. Now, “empower people” is gaining popularity.
Twenty-two local citizens met Thursday night to consider how to help those who often cannot help themselves – at least, not without new tools.
A day center was proposed to provide resources and advocacy for people who are homeless or need assistance and don’t know how to navigate the systems.
Sam Bradshaw, meeting facilitator, is a prevention specialist with the Cherokee Nation. He talked about the need for a day drop-in service for the homeless and others, while addressing the necessity for nonprofits and other entities to work together.
“Everyone is keenly aware we need to work together, pool our resources, and coordinate our efforts,” Bradshaw said. “There are people who are homeless and need skills to change their mindset, and those who are chronic homeless and want to stay homeless. They all need a day place to drop in, use the phone, take a shower, and do laundry. We also have transient homeless who come here from other cities. A [day center] could help them all get on their feet, enhance their lives by helping them learn skill sets, improve their self-esteem. [They could learn] basic skills, like how to keep a checkbook.”
Bradshaw said homeless generally fall into three categories: episodic, transitional and chronic. Without the statistics in hand, he said, chronic in Cherokee County would be anywhere from 50 to 80 individuals on any given night.
The Point in Time surveys for Tulsa is about 600 to 750, and the state Point in Time survey for Oklahoma is about 2,448.
Community volunteer and property manager Pam Stern voiced her concern.
“There is tremendous need, and not just for those from Stepping Stone,” Stern said.
Bradshaw, who worked 10 years in Human Services prior to moving to Behavioral Health, said Tahlequah has always had a tremendous need for shelters.
Grant funding could be a key
Rhonda Clemons-Hill, of Zoë Institute, offered to write grants and shared her vision of the proposed program.
“It would be a place they could receive mail, wash clothes, receive help from advocates and volunteers filling out paperwork and finding resources, with rooms for classes,” Clemons-Hill said. “[It should have] classes to get them through life skills, help them learn to change patterns and think differently.”
There are a lot of good people around here who have businesses, Bradshaw said, who would help support some of this, offer work for these people.
The group determined a building central to downtown, dedicated to this program, would need to have at least 2,000 to 3,000 square feet, but more would be better.
“It would be great if a property owner would step up and donate a building,” said Clemons-Hill.
Donna Tinnin asked if anyone knew of a model they could use to help design a program.
Several people pointed out Cherokee Eldercare and the Senior Citizens Center, but said neither are as inclusive as what they would need to provide services for the homeless.
Clemons-Hill realizes those interested in helping would be making a long-term commitment.
“Zoë has the Hands of Grace warehouse and food bank; we receive assistance from most churches who also refer people to us who need assistance. We’ve been doing this almost 10 years,” she said.
“Grant funding for a day center would range from faith-based groups to the city. The community has to work together as one. I think the resources are here in Tahlequah; we just need to lock arms and do it together.”
Bradshaw encouraged those at the meeting to do a resource assessment to determine who would help support a day center, and bring their lists to the next meeting.
To learn more about homelessness, go to www.nationalhomeless.org and www.homelessalliance.org.
The next meeting to address area homeless issues will be at 6 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 30, at 118 W. Keetoowah. The meeting is open to the public.