The Journal Record
A troubling report was published Monday by the National Center on Family Homelessness. It examines childhood homelessness across the nation and places Oklahoma a woeful 43rd.
The ranking is based on a composite score of four individual areas. Oklahoma's best showing was in policy and planning, where the state ranked 26th. The state has a 10-year plan to end homelessness, a housing trust fund and an active interagency council on homelessness.
That's the best news.
Oklahoma is 34th in risk for childhood homelessness, a category that considered teen birth rates, foreclosure rates and the 17 percent of households who pay more than 50 percent of their income for rent. Twenty-four percent of Oklahoma's children live in poverty, and more than 10 percent still have no health insurance.
The health and well-being of children in Oklahoma ranks 44th.
We commend the private efforts of organizations such as The Homeless Alliance, whose staff and volunteers work tirelessly to help people in need. But Oklahoma's public efforts to end homelessness often appear to be well-intentioned initiatives that run out of gas in a hurry. The Governor's Interagency Council on Homelessness is responsible for implementing the 10-year plan and for ensuring the development of comprehensive cross-system strategies, such as linking prisoners released from incarceration with housing agencies. Strategies will complement these approaches, plus incorporate the unique needs of rural and urban areas. Despite the report's good grade for Oklahoma's interagency council, that organization's Facebook page (it has no website we could find) went 18 months without a single post; an Oct. 17 link is the only activity there since Feb. 25, 2013.
The state's 10-year plan says the GICH will reduce the homeless and chronically homeless total from 2008 by at least 50 percent by 2014.
Statewide numbers, collected by the Department of Commerce, were not available by press time. But the 2008 Point in Time count of Oklahoma City's truly homeless children – a number that does not include those staying with other families – was 167. In 2014 it was 144, a very long way from a 50-percent reduction.
According to National Weather Service data, the temperature in Oklahoma City dropped to 17 degrees early Sunday morning; 7 degrees if you count the wind chill.
Oklahoma must do better by its children, and we should start by living up to the promises made in the 10-year plan, which calls for housing first, with other services to follow.