Tulsa Leaders Look For Solution To Aggressive Homeless Minority
Friday, August 29th 2014, 5:36 PM CDT
TULSA, Oklahoma - Editor's note: This is the third story in a series where Emory Bryan looks into the homeless situation in Tulsa.
Homelessness seems to be a growing problem in downtown Tulsa.
And tonight, city leaders say they're taking action to address a spike in vandalism and panhandling that seems to be coming with it.
And the city says there's a difference between the typical homeless person and those causing the most trouble.
Complaints have increased lately about transients harassing people or sleeping in parks. The city is trying address what's illegal while social service groups are trying to handle the increasing needs of the truly homeless.
The usual crowd of homeless people hasn't moved much. They're around buildings near the Day Center for the Homeless, and scattered on sidewalks downtown.
Many used to spend the day in Central Library, but the renovation there has put more homeless people on the move.
On Friday, a crowd congregated outside the First Baptist Caring Center where they got a free meal.
People who work with the homeless say this category is the most visible, but it also is the least likely to cause problems.
“They have to be somewhere; we can't just wish that they all go away,” Jim Walker's Youth Services of Tulsa said.
Walker says like others, he's seen a slight increase in younger homeless people. They come to Youth Services for shelter.
"We don't know if just more kids are finding out about it, or if they are just more kids,” he said.
Besides the numbers stretching the normal support services, there is another problem of transients sleeping in parks and leaving a mess behind. The police have increased patrols downtown to work on that.
“Those people who want to trash our parks, trash public spaces, break the law with drugs or whatever, we're going to work to bring the full force of city ordinances and city laws to their doorstep,” Downtown Coordinating Council's Tom Baker said.
The city and social groups are responding to issues involving the homeless camping in public, moving their belongings between sites where they get services and also aggressively panhandling.
Baker says the city is cracking down on lawbreakers and ramping up services for the rest.
"For those that are just down and out and ill prepared right now, we're going to be just as aggressive in finding solutions to their needs,” Baker said.