Editor’s note: This is the third story in a four-part series about homelessness in Yukon. The series explores limited services for people experiencing homelessness in the area, and sheds light to one man’s journey.
Some local police officers have asked Missy King, executive director of Yukon Sharing, if the nonprofit can house homeless people.
King refers them to Oklahoma City shelters, she said.
The Yukon Police Department does not record data on homeless people, citing that homelessness is not a crime.
Maj. John Brown, a public information officer for the department, said since it is not a crime, they are not required to categorize calls they receive regarding people experiencing homelessness.
The department’s record system, New World Public Safety, is also behind in technology advancement compared to other Oklahoma police departments, he said.
“Law enforcement in general is way behind,” Brown said.
The Yukon Fire Department also does not have an access point within their reporting system to determine how many calls they went on regarding people experiencing homelessness.
While the Canadian County Sheriff’s Office also does not keep specific data regarding homeless people, a dispatcher said officers don’t respond to many cases, although a check for incarcerates’ home addresses shows that many are homeless. The office tracks welfare checks, which encompass a variety of responses, and sometimes reports of homeless people are included, but it is not often, according to the dispatcher.
But people walking into nonprofits to receive services is often.
“It’s unbelievable the number of people who have been out of work for so long, who have run
through their savings and everything else,” King said.
About 42% of their clients are new this year, she said. Like local nonprofit Manna Pantry, Yukon
Sharing is just now beginning to collect data on people they serve.
King said nearly 100% of their clients are homeless. Yukon Sharing has served many single
females, as well as white males between the ages of 20-30, which is the same demographic as
Manna Pantry and nonprofit Compassionate Hands.
“Hopefully if we could get them in somewhere, and hopefully get some help — not just a place
to stay, but counseling, job opportunities — something we could do to help them, where they
aren’t homeless anymore,” King said.
Opposing views on shelters
While area nonprofits see the benefits of having a shelter in Yukon, there are others who are
Joe Horn, a Yukon board of adjustments chairperson, said he holds an unpopular view of
homelessness. He opposes building a homeless shelter, Horn said.
“I don’t know how you’re going to combat homelessness unless you address the drug problem,”
he said. “To feed these people is not helping anything. To house these people — that’s not
helping anything. That’s allowing them to do what they want to do, which is drugs.”
Substance abuse questions are part of an intake questionnaire at El Reno nonprofit Youth and
Family Services Inc., along with many others, like domestic violence inquiries.
“It’s only as accurate as the truthfulness of the person who we’re interviewing,” said Donna
Davis, emergency solutions grant coordinator for YFS.
YFS does not require drug testing as part of their programs.
Compassionate Hands also recommends programs in Oklahoma City to people with substance
“It’s not just drug addicts who are homeless,” said Yukon Mayor Shelli Selby. “It is a wide range
Horn also said he believes homelessness is a metropolitan issue. However, if it is not addressed
in Yukon, it will continue to grow, he said.
“I don’t care how big or small you are, every town has a drug problem if you have human beings
living in it,” Selby said. “The same way we don’t want to talk about we have a homeless
problem. It’s easier to go home at night to your warm bed and not think of those people.”
Yukon homeless task force looks to involve Canadian County resources
Some community leaders said a task force could be created to address homelessness.
“You can have those things, but there has to be some action you can do,” Selby said.
Yukon’s first homeless task force met Feb. 12 and has met every Friday since then. The task
force is currently working on compiling a Canadian County resource list to be placed on the
Oklahoma City and several other municipalities, like Norman are looking into homelessness, as
Facility spacing was also a concern to Horn. However, Joanne Riley, Compassionate Hands
executive director, said there are some locations in Yukon where shelters could be built if funds