Financial struggles caused by COVID-19 have made it hard for people to keep a roof over their heads. As a result, the nation's homeless population continued to rise.
According to statistics from The Urban Institute in July, one in 10 Oklahomans live in poverty.
"Do we really have to, you know, go home and all those things," John 3:16 Mission CEO Rev. Steve Whitaker said. "There was no doing that for the homeless. They didn't have a home."
Though Whitaker saw an increase in homelessness as 2020 went on, his biggest concern is having to limit the shelter space for the homeless.
Whitaker said denying people a place to stay is one of the hardest parts of running the shelter.
"It's been different knowing that there are people on the streets and having to say, ‘No’, to somebody when you know you got every other bed open," Whitaker said.
Whitaker also noted some positives from the previous year. He said he’s grateful for the number of people, from employees to volunteers, that not only helped the needy but also understand them.
"I think one of the things that people don't know is that you can't really help somebody until you know who they are or where they've come from," Whitaker said. "Seeing people exemplify the best of human character has been a blessing."
The biggest thing Whitaker has seen from the homeless who come into John 3:16 Mission is their strengthening faith through difficult times.
"What difference does it (how a person became homeless) make?” Whitaker said. "Everybody deserves a hand of compassion. Everybody deserves a good, hot meal."