Acceptance of housing vouchers is crucial to overcoming homelessness at OKC

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Christmas time seems like a good time to talk about homeless families in our community. For the staff at Positive Tomorrows, the story of a baby born in a stable because there was no room in the hostel has added significance.

A few years ago housing homeless families was difficult due to lack of funds to pay monthly rent while the family got back on their feet. Now, pandemic relief funds have made money available for housing. Through our relationship with the Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency, Positive Tomorrows has secured 60 emergency housing vouchers to help homeless families with children pay for their housing.

We have a good track record. But we were only able to accommodate 20 families and still have 40 families with housing certificates in hand that cannot be used. These are children and parents who desperately need a home. But the owners will not rent to them.

We have families who are literally homeless, who live in vehicles or motels that we pay for. They are fleeing domestic violence or have lost their jobs due to COVID. They are not lazy people. These are moms and dads who want to keep their kids safe.

There are a lot more of them than you might think. Oklahoma City Public Schools and Putnam City Public Schools together had nearly 6,000 homeless children last year. The situation is dire – think of a family of six crammed into a room in a low-rental motel.

Oklahoma City needs more homeowners who will accept housing vouchers for families. I know there are risks with this population. Sometimes they come with bad credit and past evictions. But Positive Tomorrows and other agencies in the city are ready to help them start from scratch. We will provide case management and teach families how to be good tenants. We support landlords and help them resolve issues with tenants. We promise to be available day and night to make sure our families overcome homelessness. This is what we do.

Marie and Joseph could not find a place to spend the night because there was no room at the hostel. This is happening again in Oklahoma City right now – not because people are lazy, not because they don’t want housing, not because there is no money. There is simply no room.

Susan Agel is President and CEO of Positive Tomorrows.


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