Housing Solutions is a 501 © 3 non-profit organization leading the fight to end homelessness in Tulsa County. They are dedicated to building systems that make homelessness rare, brief, and non-recurring; they’re also the lead agency for Tulsa County HUD-funded CoC.
We have noticed that the Housing Solutions team has been BUSY this winter; especially as the need to help those experiencing homelessness is even greater in the cold months. They have even added some new faces around our space. So, we decided to catch up with their Outreach team headed by Tyler Parette to find out more about what he and the Housing Solutions team is doing to help end homelessness in the City of Tulsa.
Describe a typical day in your job.
There is no typical day. A lot of what our team does is problem-solving for clients that are unsheltered. Lots of clients have mental health issues and we’re their advocate to try and help them get into stable housing. Our Outreach team meets at the root coworking in the morning; downloads where we’re going to go; go through the referrals we receive online from our website, TPD and WIN (Working in Neighborhoods) and from the City of Tulsa. We go out and have our team contact and create housing plans and solutions before enforcement or tickets occur.
Can you give me an example of housing plans?
A housing plan is just what it sounds like: a plan to get those unsheltered into stable housing. I’ll give two examples.
First, our Outreach team encountered a couple from OKC that came to Tulsa for Thanksgiving to be with family. They didn’t have a way to get back to OKC and were kicked out (by their family) and now on the street. After speaking with them and learning the extent of their situation, we were able to purchase them bus tickets to get back to OKC--this, of course, after verifying they had safe housing to return to in OKC. This is called diversion, and our organization is one of the only ones in town that does it.
Second, our team was notified of a man experiencing homelessness. He wanted to get a job and housing, but you need both to get either. He also had a pet--and pets are not allowed at most shelters, so that wasn’t an option. He put in an application through the Day Center and we helped speed up the process. The Day Center approved him, which means they help pay the rent/bills while giving the man work training. He will then assume all responsibility of the housing on a specified timeline.
So, you’ve added to your Outreach team--we’ve even seen some new faces around here. Tell us more about that.
Not too long ago, the Outreach team was just me. We’ve added 4 new members recently and hope to get a team of 9 together, soon. Right now, in Tulsa, there is only one other active outreach team; but, there are currently about 300-500 unsheltered people experiencing homelessness on any given night.
The Outreach team that we’re building is utilizing the CARES Act to reach out to people. We’ve seen a huge increase in homelessness since the pandemic began, even more so since it’s caused shelters to decrease the number of people allowed due to COVID-19 protocols and social distancing.
Increasing outreach capacity is the single biggest goal of our team. Housing plans are the first actionable step to get our clients housing. There aren’t meetings clients need to get to at certain times. Our team goes to them and gives them the help and support they need right on the street. We are very mobile, meeting people where they are.
What’s the one thing you want people to know about Housing Solutions?
The key takeaway for Housing Solutions and our Outreach team is that homelessness is not a given. It’s a temporary state that can be overcome with the right support, connections, and resources. We are in place to help people connect with the resources they need and make sure that those resources are as efficient and effective as possible.