The Christmas season seems to be a good time to talk about the homeless families in our community. For the staff at Positive Tomorrows, the story of a child who was born in a stable because there was no room in the inn has added significance.
Two years ago, housing for homeless families was difficult due to a lack of funds to pay the monthly rent while the family got back on its own two feet. Now, pandemic relief funds have made housing money available. Thanks to our relationship with the Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency, Positive Tomorrows has received 60 emergency housing vouchers to help homeless families with children pay for housing.
We have a good record. But we were only able to house 20 families and we still have 40 families who have housing vouchers on hand that cannot be used. These are the kids and parents who desperately need to stay home. But the landlord will not rent them out.
We have homeless families, who live in cars or motels that we pay for. They are fleeing domestic violence or losing work due to COVID. These are not lazy. These are parents who want to keep their children safe.
There is a lot more than you think. Oklahoma City Public Schools and Putnam City Public Schools together counted nearly 6,000 homeless children last year. The situation is desperate – think of a family of six huddled together in one room in a low-rent hotel.
Oklahoma City needs more landlords who will take home vouchers for families. I know there are risks with this population. Sometimes they come with bad credit and previous evictions. But Positive Tomorrows and other agencies in town are ready to help them start over. We will provide case management and teach families how to be a good tenant. We will support landlords and help them resolve issues with their tenants. We promise to be available day or night to make sure our families successfully overcome homelessness. This is what we do.
Mary and Joseph could not find a place to stay that night because there was no room in the inn. This situation is being repeated in Oklahoma City now – not because people are lazy, not because they don’t want housing, and not because there is no money. There is simply no place.
Susan Agil is President and CEO of Positive Tomorrows.