By Conrad Dudderar
Yukon city leaders are being asked to address what some people see as a growing homeless problem in the community.
Compassionate Hands director Joanne Riley has seen an increase in homeless people coming to her office looking for shelter, food and other help.
“Unfortunately, we don’t have a shelter in Yukon and most of our organizations are no longer paying for any type of temporary lodging,” Riley said. “We do have a lot of homeless people in Yukon. It is a problem. How do we best serve those who don’t have a roof over their head?
“That’s something I think the City needs to address because we do have people living in various places, staying between buildings and trying to stay warm. We don’t have a short-term fix, and we definitely don’t have a long-term fix.”
Longtime Yukon resident and banker Joe Horn, chairman of the Yukon Board of Adjustments, asked city council members this week to study the issue.
“We’ve got a real homeless problem here in Yukon,” Horn said. “I think we need to look at that. … I think the council needs to know what’s going on.”
It’s especially bad in the downtown area, he added, noting one person lives behind his house.
“They wander the back alleys,” Horn said.
Residents have come across homeless people carrying backpacks and living in tents and even in the woods, officials said.
Three Yukon non-profit service agencies, Compassionate Hands, Manna Pantry and Yukon Sharing, have offices in the downtown area. While these agencies provide services like emergency food, clothing and utility assistance; Yukon does not have a homeless shelter, soup kitchen or public transportation.
Ward 2 City Council Member Shelli Selby volunteers to feed the homeless once a month in downtown Oklahoma City.
“I’ve had the homeless in Oklahoma City tell me that they were moving them to Yukon,” Selby said. “I said, ‘Why would they move you here? We have nothing for you. We don’t have services, like places for you to eat or get food. We don’t have a shelter. We don’t have public transportation’.
“I worried where they would go when it got so cold, where they would find a hot meal. It concerns me greatly for the homeless to not have all these services. They are better served in downtown Oklahoma City where they can help them get a step up or even in affordable housing.”
UP FOR DISCUSSION
Mayor Mike McEachern believes the homeless issue should be discussed at a future Yukon City Council work session.
It may not be as noticeable now because it’s wintertime and Yukon doesn’t have a shelter where homeless people can stay, McEachern added.
“We’ve been made aware of it and it’s something that we’ll be looking into,” he said. “We’ll obtain additional information to see if, number one, we do indeed have a homeless problem; and if we do, what kind of solutions we need to look at. We have to get to the point that we really know it’s a problem first.
“Then we have to know the size of the problem and what kind of remediation that we want to do.”
Compassionate Hands sometimes sees transients and people who become stranded in Yukon with no means of transportation.
“Occasionally we can help them with gas or money,” Riley said.
A proposed assimilation of Yukon’s three major social service organizations could ultimately lead to Yukon having a homeless shelter and/or soup kitchen.
“Some people have fears, that I think are unfounded, that if we do get a shelter it would attract more homeless people to the area,” Riley said. “I don’t agree, and the reason is because Yukon doesn’t have a lot to offer (homeless).”
While Manna Pantry and Yukon Sharing do provide emergency food for hungry residents, Yukon has no place that regularly serves hot meals to the homeless.
Downtown Oklahoma City has a variety of such places – such as the Jesus House, City Rescue Mission and Salvation Army.