By Conrad Dudderar
Yukon has formed a new homeless task force – but there are no plans to open a shelter here.
Mayor Shelli Selby initiated an effort to “restart” a previous task force team after the Yukon City Council heard concerns from business owners and residents about homeless people and panhandlers – especially in Yukon’s downtown area.
“With all the controversy over the (food pantry) box at the United Methodist Church, we had a lot of people asking, ‘what can we do with our homeless population?’” Selby said.
“We really don’t know what our homeless population is. We have a lot of ‘couch surfers’ and a lot of people who live in a motel.”
At the reformed task force’s first meeting, attendees agreed they need to help these individuals.
But the City of Yukon does not have the money or resources to build and operate a homeless shelter.
“I don’t think our numbers would even warrant it,” Selby noted. “We will gladly take anybody to the Oklahoma City shelter.
“When we talk about a ‘homeless population’, truly I don’t think Yukon has that many. People who find themselves without a home or are in between homes – we have those. But when you’re staying in a motel, you’re not considered homeless anymore.”
Yukon Homeless Task Force members brainstormed and came up with many ideas.
Among them was a suggestion to have a program like the Oklahoma City Homeless Alliance’s “Curbside Chronicle.”
This gives the homeless a chance to earn funds by selling copies of a monthly magazine instead of begging on street corners and medians.
In Oklahoma City, others trying to transition from homelessness also make money collecting donations for items like flowers and snow cones.
“The more you work, the more you make,” Mayor Selby emphasized. “It would give them dignity and take away panhandling on corners.”
Yukon’s task force also identified the need for a social worker to help these people get on their feet.
“Oftentimes, the reason they’re homeless is they don’t know how to get their benefits started, (and) they don’t have a driver’s license, birth certificate or social security card so they can obtain employment,” Selby pointed out. “Or they don’t even know how to apply for affordable housing.
“We’re trying to get a social worker once a week that would be available to help them fill out that paperwork, like Rick Cacini does with the veterans.”
For their second meeting Aug. 3, the new Yukon Homeless Task Force met with Oklahoma City Homeless Alliance executive director Dan Straughan.
At Straughan’s suggestion, the task force will develop a survey to determine how many homeless Yukon has and what their needs are.
Yukon’s area food pantries will be asked to have their clients complete this survey. Homeless families with students in Yukon schools also will be asked to fill it out.
“We don’t know where the encampments are, so we’re going to do a drone search to try to find where those are,” said Selby, who operates a Main Street food cupboard. “So, we can ask those people, ‘What are your needs? What do you need?’”
The mayor’s new task force is taking a different approach than the previous one – trying to be more hands-on in dealing with the homeless issue.
“We’re looking at what those needs are,” Selby explained. “Is the need food? Is the need affordable housing? Is the need social work?
“We want to find out what the needs are – and the numbers are.”
Yukon’s new task-oriented Homeless Task Force meets monthly inside the Yukon Police Department, 100 S Ranchwood.
More participation is welcome from anyone who wants to help service or provide constructive input.
“We’re not just an organization that sits around and talks,” Selby said. “We’re action-driven.”
For more information, contact Yukon’s mayor by email at firstname.lastname@example.org