Southwest Oklahoma identifies homeless population

Southwest Oklahoma identifies homeless population

LAWTON, OK (KSWO) -Volunteers took to the streets in 16 counties in Southwest Oklahoma, trying to get a head count of the homeless.

The event, the "Point-in-Time Count," happens nationwide each year during the last 10 days in January. The goal is to not only identify the number of homeless people in a specific area, but to also collect the proper information to develop effective plans for each region to end homelessness.

Jervis Jackson, Southwest Oklahoma's director of Continuum Care, says 238 people can be identified as homeless in Southwest Oklahoma as of last year. But, he says the public would be shocked at the number of young people not included in that number.

"Just last year, the Lawton Public School system identified over 600 young people that were living in homeless situations," Jackson said.

Jackson says continuum care has homeless liaisons in every school to help identify the homeless among young people. Jackson says studies show that most families are one paycheck away from being homeless. He says that's why this count is so important.

"If not for this effort, if not for this count, if not for this community identifying this problem and really getting behind solving the problem…they'd just get lost," Jackson said.

Besides pounding the pavement, Jackson says they also get homeless numbers from area churches who feed those in need.

Harold Davis, a deacon at St. John's Baptist Church in Lawton, says feeding the homeless is a blessing.

"We're doing what God want us to do. God is in the center of whatever we do and if this is his plan, then we just going forward with it," Davis said.

Jackson also points out that this wouldn't be possible without the volunteers who make it happen.

"In order for us to do what we do, there has to be a community buy in. Southwest Oklahoma is just great for, if you have a problem the community buys in and we just rally around it," Jackson said.

Jackson says since the Lawton Housing Authority got involved with the Continuum Care program in 2007, he no longer has to wait for people to become homeless to help them out. He can now assist them before that happens.

The Point-in-Time Count is a 24-hour process and will end at midnight. Southwest Oklahoma Continuum Care will host another homeless count geared toward veterans in September.

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