What We Do
- Identifying individuals experiencing homelessness
- Building relationships
- Ascertaining immediate needs
- Getting people into the system so that we can continue helping them on their journey to being housed.
Street Outreach refers to work undertaken with people in the areas they are sleeping rough. This typically includes the streets, parks, and other public spaces. The heart of street outreach is meeting people where they are at, building deep trust and connections, offering support, and reinforcing the human dignity and respect that is deserving of all people. Effective street outreach is systematic, coordinated, comprehensive, housing-focused, person-centered, trauma-informed, culturally responsive, and emphasizes safety and reducing harm.
The Homeless Resource Center (HRC) offers a safe place away from Main Street for people experiencing homelessness to seek rest from weather extremes. At the HRC people can receive assistance to help them on their journey back to being housed. More than 40 organizations have partnered with the City of Shawnee to bring these services to the HRC, including:
- Case Management
- ID Services (birth certificate, social security card, state ID)
- Job Services (resume, job search, job application, interview skills)
- DHS Services (SoonerCare, food stamps, etc.)
- Substance Abuse Services
- Mental Health Services
- Housing Assistance
- And More
The HRC hours of operation are Monday-Thursday noon-5:00pm and Saturday 10:00am-5:00pm
Sanitation and hygiene are two overlooked, yet vital aspects of conquering homelessness. Safe, adequate, and accessible public toilet, handwashing, shower, and laundry facilities are scare or altogether absent for the homeless community. Without access to hygiene facilities and the safety and dignity that they provide, those experiencing homelessness face inequitable physical and behavioral health risks, including having to urinate or defecate outdoors, and forgo handwashing, showers, clean laundry and sanitary products. Because of this, those experiencing homelessness must live in unhealthy environments contaminated by human waste. They are more vulnerable to Hepatitis A, meningitis, staph, lice, and other health problems.
In Shawnee, it is very common to see homeless people sitting outside the library. While looking into the issue, we found that
many people stay in this area because it is the only public restroom. When the library is closed, people are forced to "go" in
outdoor spaces. We did an experiment in the summer of 2022, installing 5 porta-potties at 3 sites with the goals of providing
much-needed bathrooms for the homeless community, decreasing bathroom traffic at the library, and to see if it would cut down
on human waste in the downtown area. The experiment was successful, with business owners and community members
reporting a drastic decrease in human waste, those experiencing homelessness were very thankful, and the library reported a
decrease in bathroom traffic. Armed with the results of this experiment, we are exploring more permanent solutions.
With help from Generations Church and Suds Bucket, we were able to coordinate a laundry service for our homeless
population in the summer of 2022. Dirty clothes were dropped off on Wednesday, taken to Suds Bucket to be washed, and
brought back on Saturday for the individuals to pick up. This has aided in healthy living and resulted in a decrease of
cast-off clothing in the downtown area. It is our desire to develop an on-going laundry program.
A 24 foot, three-stall shower trailer was placed at the location of the Homeless Resource Center (HRC) throughout the summer
of 2022. Over 700 showers were given, and people were able to come take a warm shower with soap, shampoo, and conditioner
provided. The shower trailer helped improve health, sanitation, and hygiene. It also served as a way to boost confidence, allow
our homeless citizens to feel like actual people again, and be able to attain jobs. The trailer was paid for by grant funds and we
are raising funds to install permanent showers at the facility being used as the HRC.
In addition to meeting sanitation and hygiene needs, we have many other programs to help clients out of homelessness and into stable housing.
Identity Services. In order to apply for a job, obtain housing, and get access to various services, everyone must have a valid ID.
Designated Shelters & Safe Parking. We are finalizing codes and working on identifying a location where people who are experiencing homelessness can stay or park car which will allow them to live without the threat of being forced to leave. The site will provide safety, sanitation (bathrooms, showers, trash) and bring in intensive services and Case Management to help people move towards being housed.
Personal Storage. Storage is important because it provides a secure place for belongings and documents and decreases the amount of belongings that are on the streets of Shawnee. With belongings safely stored, people can go to work, go to a doctor, or seek help with mental health or substance abuse without worrying that their few belongings will get stolen or thrown away. We are working on locating a site and securing the needed funding.
Housing. The Shawnee Homeless Program is designating an AmeriCorps VISTA member to focus on helping to remove barriers to housing, such as a poor rental history, criminal background, and poor employment history. They will work with landlords, as well as explore alternative approaches like shared housing, sponsorships, and increasing the housing supply.
The Housing objective is help remove barriers to housing.
Employment. We are also dedicating an AmeriCorps VISTA member to focus on removing barriers to employment, such as low educational attainment, lack of training, mental health, substance abuse, disability, criminal record, and low levels of computer literacy required to perform job searches and fill out online applications. They will work with employers to create 2nd chance jobs for people with criminal records, getting criminal records expunged, and educating employers that not every offense is incompatible with work, and creating employer/employee support to keep people working.
Recidivism. This is a fancy word for the revolving door of arrest and release that many people experiencing homelessness face. When a person cannot pay their fines and fees, often a warrant is issued. They are re-arrested and get more fees and fines and the cycle goes on and on. By working to get sentences changed to community service, people can pay their debt to society and break free of the cycle. The community benefits by having more people to clean up trash, do park maintenance, and more.