Severe weather like what we have been experiencing in Tulsa is particularly harsh and dangerous for unsheltered people. Temperatures have reached as low as -3 degrees, making it unsafe for anyone to be exposed to these conditions without proper shelter and clothing. Due to the intensity and life-threatening nature of the winter storm, Gov. Kevin Stitt officially declared a State of Emergency for all 77 counties within Oklahoma.
Unfortunately, the issuance of a State of Emergency did not come quick enough for one member of our community. A homeless man was found dead due to cold weather-related causes last week. Since this tragedy occured, many local churches and shelters have opened their doors to provide the homeless with a safe place to stay. These temporary housing facilities are supplying free and warm meals to those in need, as well as any winter clothing that has been donated to them. The City of Tulsa Outreach team has also created a “Homeless Street Outreach Request,” where if you see someone in need you submit a quick form to Tulsa’s local helpline. The link for the helpline request is listed in the QR code on the right.
Although the creation of new outreach systems are fundamental to preventing future weather-related devestations, it does seem to raise the question of what truly causes this kind of tragedy and “How we as a community can come together to continually help everyone stay safe and warm. These are various questions that have been brought to my attention over the past week while researching this particular issue.
To try and answer the question of what causes this kind of tragedy, my mind instantly went to the type of climate our country has been experiencing; a year of COVID-19. Hardships were first established when churches and local nonprofit organizations were hesitant to exceed social distancing guidelines and allow surplus individuals into their protection. When additional organizations volunteered to open their doors, many at-need individuals were still unaware of which locations were open, or did not have the means of transportation to travel to these areas.
To better combat issues of knowledge and transportation, allowing churches and shelters in all parts of Tulsa would alleviate the need to travel long distances. This would also diminish the guessing game of where and when to seek help for those in need.
When thinking of how we as a community can come together to continually help everyone stay safe and warm, I’ve given great thought about what we can personally do to help the homeless in our community. From small acts of kindness such as donating food to the local food bank and giving gently used coats and warm clothing to shelters, to volunteering at your church to help serve those who may need extra love and warmth. No act is ever unappreciated and could even help to save a life during these unprecedented winter storms.
If you ever see someone in need, there are multiple ways in which you can reach out for assistance. Tulsa’s John 3:16 Mission is providing search, rescue, and shelter at (918) 587-1186, Salvation Army’s Center of Hope is providing shelter at (918) 582-7201 and the “Homeless Street Outreach Request” is a local online helpline, as previously listed.