Lawton_Oklahoma can't create homes for 45,000 homeless citizens in only one day. However, state leaders have a 10-year plan to end homelessness in Oklahoma. About 150 officials met this week at the 11th Annual Oklahoma Homeless Conference to address issues. The goal of the conference - to create and maintain more places like Lawton's C. Carter Crane Shelter, and provide permanent housing and support services to help people find jobs.
Betty Caldwell, Director of the C. Carter Crane Shelter, says there are about 250 homeless people in Lawton, but there are only two shelters to accommodate them. The Salvation Army has room for 29 people, and the Crane Center can shelter 35. But, the Crane Shelter isn't only a place to stay, it gives people help finding a job and a permanent place to live. "Our main goal is from the street to housing - everybody needs a chance," said Caldwell.
The center helps folks create job resumes, and their clients are expected to look for a job every day, and help with chores at the center. "It's things you would do in your own home when you get out of here," said Caldwell. "You have to get up in the morning, you have to go to work, you have to do chores to keep your property clean and safe."
The number of homeless Oklahomans has gone down a little, but they may come back up since the economy is in a slump. "There are people that are renters that do not know that people that actually own the home have been foreclosed on," Caldwell said. "They're going to be devastated, and we're gonna have a new face of homeless in each one of our local communities starting very, very soon."
The economy also effects the Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) that help fund the centers. "Over the last six years our program has lost something on the order of 30% of our dollars for the CDBG program because of funding reductions," she said. The shelter relies more on the support of the United Way, and donations from the community.
Caldwell says the shelters in Lawton are not full right now, since some homeless don't want to ask for help from a shelter. She says they will be totally full once the weather gets cold.
If you would like to help, either by making a donation or as a volunteer, contact the United Way at 580-355-0218 or visit www.uwlawton.org.
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