City releases homeless study, survey

·3 min read

Dec. 3—Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that the Ward 2 councilor's name is Lauren Schueler, not Elizabeth Schueler. The Transcript regrets the error.

The City of Norman has released a long awaited study and strategic plan to address homelessness and asks for the public's input for initial strategies via a survey and upcoming listening sessions.

The City Council hired Homebase in January for $100,000 to conduct the study and strategic plan. The nonprofit organization conducted surveys, interviews and meetings with stakeholders and providers who serve those experiencing housing insecurity. It reviewed the city's resources and response to the unhoused to form a strategic plan.

The city released the Homebase report, which was originally expected in October, on its website Monday and invites the public to discuss recommendations that should be a priority, a city news release states.

Two meetings will be held Dec. 6 from 10 a.m. to noon and will be repeated from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. inside Central Library, 103 W. Acres St., the release reads.

The meetings will be interactive, "where residents are invited to share concerns, challenges, opportunities and aspirations for the City and share options about how to prioritize the recommended list," the statement reads.

What's in the report

The report identified more than 40 recommendations for the city to focus its efforts.

A few possible directions for the city to take include safe and affordable housing, low barrier housing and day services, supportive services, transportation to resources and employment, coordinated prevention assistance, more robust data collection and analysis and coordination and communication to ensure effective use of limited resources, a prepared statement reads.

A survey is also available at surveymonkey.com/r/normanfeedback

The council received an initial peek into the organization's Gaps Analysis report at an Oct. 6 study session. Homeless advocates and some councilors said there were few surprises in the study at the time.

Tuesday night, some councilors urged their constituents to participate in the upcoming meetings.

Ward 2 Lauren Schueler said it was an opportunity for citizens to provide input on "some of the priorities that we need to look at to address homelessness in our community," she said.

Ward 4 Lee Hall stressed the importance of public feedback.

"This is part of the overall plan that's been designed from the very beginning, to have a preliminary plan presented to council and the preliminary report, and now it's time for community engagement," Hall said. "Your feedback is so important to this process so that we can understand what the priorities of our community are moving forward. I invite you all to participate in that."

The council-led Oversight Committee will tackle homelessness during a portion of its meetings, Hall announced during an Oct. 28 council meeting. She also said meetings of the Ad Hoc Committee to Address Homelessness would be suspended as the committee took on the issue and explored the Homebase report. Hall is chair of the oversight committee.

Mayor Breea Clark spoke of the report during her state of the city address prior to the regular meeting.

"I understand that homelessness is an issue that's at the forefront of the minds of many Norman residents," she said. "We are working diligently and strategically to make sure that we have a human-centered approach to address it. Norman's motto is 'housing first' and I can assure you that we are working hard to provide the housing opportunities so badly needed in our city."

She encouraged the public to attend the meetings or complete the online survey.

Mindy Wood covers City Hall news and notable court cases for The Transcript. Reach her at mwood@normantranscript.com or 405-416-4420.

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