Opioid Epidemic A Factor Of Tulsa’s Rise In Homelessness, Expert Says
TULSA, Oklahoma - The homeless population is rising in Tulsa and one shelter said the growing opioid epidemic is partially to blame.
The director of John 3:16 said they're already 10 percent over capacity right now, and with cold weather around the corner, that number is only expected to grow.
People are sleeping on benches in the front lobby at John 3:16 in the middle of fall. It's a trend, Reverend Steve Whitaker said he doesn't usually see until extremely cold weather hits.
"Our numbers are up for this very reason, families have just said, ‘We can't help you right now until you're done with that drug,’" Whitaker said.
The opioid epidemic is responsible for thousands of deaths nationwide, and Whitaker said it's also a major factor in the rise of Tulsa’s homeless population.
"A lot of people who have opioid addictions, they have high capacities, they are educated people. We are not talking about someone who didn't have another choice, they are coming from all levels of society," he said.
Whitaker also blames broken families, a lack of better education and a lack of jobs for the city's rise in homelessness; all issues that are hard to overcome for anyone, but especially those addicted to opioids.
"It's an insidious drug. It just hangs on, and hangs on and hangs on," he said.
Whitaker said there's a cultural problem with how society deals with those struggling the most.
"We don't do a great job of restoring them,” he said. “I think we're doing better at it but we need to work harder to make sure that those who are at the bottom of society, those that are struggling with poverty have the same opportunities as those who already have wealth."
The reverend encourages anyone who wants to get involved to volunteer their time or donate to organizations that work with the homeless community.