Tahlequah Daily Press

June 10, 2014

O-Si-Yo Homeless Men's Shelter history

Special Writer

TAHLEQUAH — The O-Si-Yo Homeless Men's Shelter was established by long-time social worker and advocate Tom Lewis in 2007. Funding for rent and utilities was provided by his mother until her death two years ago. She was the sole supporter of the shelter, said Ed Thompson, director of operations for the past seven months.

About four months ago leadership of the shelter passed to Becky Stephenson, board president.

"For at least six months we've been operating strictly on donations," he said." The community is very supportive."

For years people didn't realize we were here, said Thompson.

Updates and refurbishing, hopefully with a grant from the Cherokee Nation, will turn the tin shop into additional usable space. It will more than double the number of men they can help from 12 to about 28, he said. It will add a new kitchen, two new bathrooms, new windows, and flooring. The laundry will be moved into the former kitchen space.

This is the third year for their vegetable garden, two trees have been planted in the front yard, along with a row of flowers, by the men. There are two trees on the side, one bearing apples.

"The flowers make it look homey," he said.

Monday the exterior was being painted clay and will have tan trim, by youth volunteers on a mission trip from Grace United Methodist Church in Naperville, Illinois.

"We'll have a fresh look, and fresh outlook," Thompson said.

The tin shop and house are on listen on the Historic Registry so the paint colors are in context of how the buildings were painted in thepast, Thompson said.

"I love my job, I'm helping people who need help," he said.