New Tulsa Ordinance Would Let Police Remove Homeless From Under Bridges

Thursday, May 24th 2018, 11:08 pm
By: Justin Shrair

A new Tulsa city ordinance is waiting on the mayor's signature and would give police the ability to remove the city's homeless from living under bridges.

The city and advocates for the homeless say it will improve safety and enable more people to get help,

The city is working closely together with Tulsa Police, John 3:16, ODOT, and other social services to provide those living under bridges like these, resources and tools.

"As long as we can allow our TPD Officers to go up and secure the area and also keep those people safe it's a win-win situation," said City Councilor Karen Gilbert.

In an eight to zero vote, the city council approved a new ordinance aimed at making areas under Tulsa bridges safer for the homeless population living under them and city and ODOT workers.

"They'll all go out together and see what they can do to provide wrap-around social services to those individuals".

Before this ordinance, TPD Officers were not able to secure those areas. Rev. Steve Whitaker, of the John 3:16 Mission, says a growing number of people are living in those areas, making it harder to reach out and provide helpful services.

"We wanna make sure that we be kind and that we take care of them in the best of ways," said Whitaker.

He says allowing TPD to assist them also helps make it safer for his workers. Stephanie Powers who used to be homeless says she hopes the city will be compassionate with others who are in tough situations. 

"We're trying to get off the streets, and the laws are trying to force us to get off when they should give us time".

Councilor Gilbert says although this does give police arrest powers, in those areas, the goal is not to arrest but to keep everyone safe.

"The purpose of it is to get out there and to offer services if they chose to take those services great if they don't then all it is just our police officers, keeping them safe," said Gilbert.

That ordinance is on the mayor’s desk. If he signs it, it will go into effect 30 days after that.