Though its old name can be seen on the exterior, the local facility for men who are homeless now goes by a different name.
Formerly known as the O-Si-Yo Homeless Men’s Shelter, the facility is now called the Tahlequah Men’s Shelter.
Ed Thompson, director, said the facility is funded entirely by private donations, and accepts what it can get. Numerous donors have provided funds, food, supplies and labor to keep the shelter running.
“We are always in need of funding and donations, things of that sort,” Thompson said. “But we’re doing pretty well. People have been using the shelter, and we’re usually pretty full. We’re still in the middle of the remodel. We want to be able to get more people in here and give them a little bit better place to stay.”
Though the Tahlequah Men’s Shelter benefits from the generosity of many donors, careful budgeting is still necessary. The renovation and remodeling projects were begun almost a year ago with the help of Habitat for Humanity, the Cherokee Nation and others. Repairs have been addressed, and the shelter now has three bathrooms instead of one. But work is still under way for flooring and expansion.
“We’re putting new flooring down now for the lower dorm,” Thompson said. “That’s about 40 percent done. We’re grateful for all the help we get. We Go Global comes down here every summer to help us out. The Zarrow Foundation in Tulsa give us a hand. Feed My Sheep brings us food, and Tahlequah High School is good about bringing us donations after their functions. We’ve had church groups from as far away as Chicago help out.”
Thompson gives particular credit to Mike Perryman and others with the Cherokee Nation’s Neighbor In Trade program for assistance with the construction. Residents of the shelter also help with construction work. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been any shortage of live-in labor.
“We have 12 beds and we’re usually full,” Thompson said. “An average stay is usually 60 to 90 days, but we don’t have any set time limit. To tell the truth, one of the biggest surprises for me is to see how many people are homeless. I didn’t think there would be that many in Cherokee County, but there are people sleeping under bridges. Homelessness is also a problem with veterans. I’ve been surprised by the number of veterans who have been through here.”
There are many ways to help the Tahlequah Men’s Shelter. Thompson said monetary donations are most helpful because they can be applied where need is greatest, but donations of food, building materials and labor are welcome.
Those with questions can call 918-453-2520. Otherwise, Thompson is around to accept donations.
“We’re open 24-7-365,” he said. “We never close. Just bring them by at any time.”
Information is also available online. Search for the Tahlequah Men’s Shelter on Facebook and Google Plus. The address is 118 W. Keetoowah St., across the alley behind BancFirst.