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City of Tulsa's homeless shelter now open in former juvenile center

City of Tulsa's homeless shelter now open in former juvenile center

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HOMELESS

A man organizes belongings at an encampment on the corner of Archer Street and Elwood Avenue in August.

The city of Tulsa has officially opened a new shelter to serve people who are homeless, the city’s housing director said Wednesday.

A soft opening was held Tuesday for the old Tulsa County Juvenile Justice Center on Gilcrease Museum Road near Charles Page Boulevard, which has been converted for use as temporary housing and a drop-in shelter, said Becky Gligo.

The facility, funded as part of the city’s $1.5 million COVID-19 CARES Act relief funding effort, provides a spacious environment that will accommodate social distancing in line with current safety protocols.

The shelter will be able to accommodate up to 150 people, and occupants will have access to showers, medical care, food and laundry services, Gligo said.

“We’ve had outreach workers letting people know where that (the shelter) is (and) helping them get there,” she said. “And then once everyone has a place to go, the city’s Asset Management Department will be just doing a follow up cleanup down on the Archer corridor.

It is Archer Street, just north of downtown, where several homeless encampments prompted the city to call on the Tulsa Police Department to help clear the area.

TPD’s Downtown Impact Team recently had begun notifying people camping along Archer that they would have to move or possibly face citations, although Gligo indicated that the homeless would not be criminally prosecuted if they failed to leave.

Archer Street is home to the Iron Gate soup kitchen and food pantry, The Salvation Army, the Day Center for the Homeless and the Family Center for Juvenile Justice.

Being in proximity to those sites allows people to quickly access services those entities provide, which is why adjacent encampments grew in the area, Gligo said.

“The city is working really collaboratively with A Way Home for Tulsa so that is not happening because we know citations just create more barriers for people experiencing homelessness,” she said. “And so this is really about giving people a safe, dignified place to spend their day.”

The city has already made at least 350 successful housing placements of homeless people since March, which is a greater total than in all of 2019, Gligo said.

And doing so in the middle of a pandemic was an initial concern because of how vulnerable the population is and that fact that existing shelters had to reduce their capacity to prevent coronavirus outbreaks. So far, the application of resources has allowed the city and shelters to avoid community spread within the homeless population.

Currently, infection rates among the city’s homeless population remain “relatively low,” Gligo said, adding that the overflow shelter will help keep it that way. “This has absolutely saved lives,” she said.

Through a partnership with Morton Comprehensive Health Services, universal testing is provided to those who want it. If anyone living on the street or in a shelter contracts the virus, that person will be placed in a 68-room “quarantine hotel” operated by City Lights Foundation to recover if hospitalization is not necessary, Gligo said.


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Kendrick Marshall

918-581-8378

kendrick.marshall@tulsaworld.com

Twitter: @KD_Marshall

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