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Housing Stability takes long-term approach to fighting homelessness in Tulsa

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Ovid Bruce and his wife spent three years living in a car or a tent or occasionally sleeping on someone’s couch until he finally called Tulsa’s 211 hotline.

Officials referred the couple to downtown’s Day Center, which had received a Housing Stability grant last year from Restore Hope Ministries, a local nonprofit that’s best known for providing rental assistance to help people avoid eviction.

In this case, the Bruces needed help getting into an apartment, not just staying in one. But the Housing Stability grant allowed the Day Center to offer “wrap-around services” in which a case manager could help them find housing, apply for various government subsidies, look for job opportunities and connect with other social services.

In early October, just in time for Bruce’s 59th birthday, the couple moved into an apartment in south Tulsa.

“The best birthday present I could have gotten was a home for my family,” Bruce said. “I don’t have to worry about my family sitting in a hot or a cold car while I go to work and not being able to eat or drink anything until I get paid that day. To me, that’s a gift.”

Restore Hope distributed more than $750,000 in Housing Stability grants last fall to several local organizations, including Catholic Charities, the Tulsa Dream Center and Housing Solutions Tulsa.

As federal COVID-19 relief funding dwindled, Housing Stability grants were partly meant to offset the loss of the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, or ERAP, officials said. Restore Hope distributed more than $58 million between May 2020 and this November, when the final ERAP applications were processed.

But the new grants were also meant to go beyond emergency assistance and provide long-term support for Tulsans who are facing the kind of financial insecurity that can lead to homelessness, said the Rev. Jeff Jaynes, executive director at Restore Hope.

“What we’re doing in Tulsa is building up a support system,” Jaynes said. “We want to prevent homelessness and eviction in a more general sense and not just provide assistance when somebody is in the middle of a crisis.”

To keep building that support system, Restore Hope expects to provide another round of Housing Stability grants next year, Jaynes said.

“I think the only questions are ‘who?’ and ‘how much?’ and ‘what services are needed?’” he said.

Since getting into an apartment, Bruce has found a part-time job and now pays 30% of his own rent. The Day Center will continue to provide case management for at least two years to ensure that the couple can achieve long-term financial security, officials said.

“It’s opening up new doors for us that we didn’t have before,” said Bruce’s wife, Dee. “We don’t have to wake up every morning at a different place, at the lake or whatever. I can wake up and go take a shower and cook for my family, like I have been able to do for so many years. So yeah, it’s changed my life dramatically.”

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Featured video: Mayor G.T. Bynum announces Tulsa Housing Challenge during 2022 State of the City address

The initiative has a goal of $500 million in the next two years in total housing investment across the city.

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