Extreme Cold Temperatures Cause Many Homeless Tulsans To Seek Shelter

Thursday, January 13th 2011, 8:30 am
By: News On 6

Jamie McGriff, News On 6

TULSA, Oklahoma -- Many Oklahomans probably can't even imagine what it's like being outside in the cold for hours at a time. But there are hundreds of homeless people in and around Tulsa who deal with this problem every day.

Shelters in Tulsa are doing what they can to get people off the streets especially during this time of year.

The Salvation Army has the largest shelter in the Tulsa area that can take in hundreds of people at one time.

There are other shelters in the area besides the Salvation Army, like the John 3:16 Mission and the Tulsa Day Center for the Homeless.

One organizer says there are roughly 600 people who use the three shelters every night.

Sandra Lewis with Tulsa Day Center for the Homeless says there is a team that operates under Family and Children Services, a separate entity that goes throughout the city. This team will look for homeless people and urge them to go into shelters.

With the temperatures it's expected to be very busy for the team.

What happens when the shelters run out of space? Is there an emergency plan?

The answer to the second question is yes.  The Salvation Army says a plan is in place.

A spokesperson with the shelter says that it's never had to activate the plan, even during the ice storm several years ago. When the Salvation Army shelter gets around 300, people are allowed to sleep in the hallways and the media room.

But if more people come looking for a warm place to sleep the backup plan is to use the Boys & Girls Clubs in Tulsa.

Between all the shelters in the city, there are less than a thousand people looking for a warm bed each night.

Jim Lyle with Community Service Council says he's seen a steady increase since the 80's when those numbers were around 250 each night.

The Day Center for the Homeless says many of the people who come to their facility, simply ran out of money to pay their rent, and have no other where else to go.

They add that Tulsa is a unique city because there's enough space to take everyone who wants to come in, something that's not true in many cities nationwide.