Lawton_On Thursday, Southwest Oklahoma Continuum of Care tries to determine the scope of the homeless situation in the Southwest area of the state. Weather certainly isn't making it easy. As the homeless seek refuge from the bitter conditions, they will be flocking to shelters to get something hot to eat, and a warm place to sleep.
The services needed by the homeless aren't cheap. This is why the continuum is planning for the future based on what help the homeless need now. Shelters must get a rough estimate each year of the numbers of homeless and how much money is required to help them, in order to apply for grants, and if a person doesn't have a home address, it's hard to count.
St. John's Missionary Baptist Church in Lawton provides meals and clothes for those in need nearly every day of the week, and a lot of people who come don't have homes. Naomi Ahdosy has been homeless for the past month and she gets help from St. John's. "I come here all the time just to get out of the cold weather," she says.
Saint John's is just one of the services helping the homeless. One thing these services have in common is the high cost to operate the facilities. Federal assistance helps, but facilities needing extra help must give a general idea of how much they need, and that's why they try count how many homeless individuals there actually are.
Director for the Southwest Continuum of Care, Jervis Jackson, says the count also helps them figure out ways to help reduce the size of the homeless community. "It gives us a snapshot of where the homeless population are, but also it brings the focus on the homeless community here," he says. "And that community is not just limited to Lawton, but the entire 16 county area that makes up Southwest Oklahoma."
Jackson says it's vital in determining how much funding they will need in the coming year. "You try to do what you can to get the resources to them, get the services to them, and ensure that they don't become victims of that very same element that they live in," he says. These shelter providers don't stop just because it's dark either. They head out into the cold to hand out blankets and hot food to unsheltered homeless people, along with trying to get them counted.
If you would like to donate a blanket, shoes, or coats to the homeless, please contact the Lawton Housing Authority at 580-353-7392.