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Housing Development Correlates to Homelessness Reduction in Tulsa

The Building Tulsa, Building Lives capital campaign to end chronic homelessness continues to expand and develop. As a result, with more housing development, chronic homelessness in Tulsa, Oklahoma has decreased.

The Building Tulsa, Building Lives capital campaign to end chronic homelessness―led by Judy Kishner of the Anne and Henry Zarrow Foundation and Gail Richards with the Maxine and Jack Zarrow Family Foundation―continues to expand and develop. As a result, with more housing development, chronic homelessness in Tulsa, Oklahoma has decreased from 200 in 2008 to less than 86 in 2012, by HUD’s “one night count” definition. Over that same period, the campaign developed 425 new housing units for availability to people who are chronically homeless, recently homeless, mentally ill, exiting incarceration, transitional-age youth (age 18 to 25), and those at risk of becoming homeless.

The Campaign

Building Tulsa, Building Lives is a $30 million campaign to provide 511 units of housing across the community. These units will provide safe, affordable, and decent housing to adults and transitional-age youth who are homeless or at risk for becoming homeless. To date, the campaign has raised just over $26.4 million in private donations, and these gifts, in turn, have leveraged just over $7 million of public funding.

  • Phase 1 of the campaign saw the construction of the Yale Apartments. This complex comprises 76 units and includes a 25-unit safe haven for people directly off of the streets, in addition to 18 units for people living in recovery from mental illness. The balance is available for low-income, market-rate renters.  This new construction property initially faced enormous opposition, which became an opportunity to educate the media, elected officials, community business leaders, funders, and citizens about the benefits of permanent supported housing. Media coverage related to the construction of the Yale Apartments provided the impetus to get hundreds of people out to tour the housing and meet some of the residents.
  • Phase 2 of the campaign saw the acquisition of 239 additional units in nine separate, scattered locations across the city at a cost of $8.5 million. The purchase and structural rehabilitation were accomplished at an average cost of $35,500 per unit. Rehabilitation across the nine properties ranged from minor to extensive and provided a boon to the surrounding neighborhoods, eliminating property blight and crime infestation, and creating both temporary and permanent jobs for hundreds of local workers.
  • Phase 3 of the campaign saw the purchase of an additional 120-unit complex at a cost of $4 million and the expenditure of $2.5 million to establish a replacement reserve. The reserve will support the large capital improvement needs that will evolve over time across the properties. This phase includes a $1 million challenge grant from the Mabee Foundation with the goal of raising $1.3 million by December 31, 2012.
  • Phase 4 will include application to at least two federal programs, including HUD 811 and HOME funds. This phase will help complete acquisition and rehabilitation of additional affordable apartments in the community. These acquisitions will wrap-up the campaign and finalize the attainment of 511 units to end chronic homelessness in Tulsa.

Additional Benefits

In addition to a reduction in chronic homelessness, additional benefits from the campaign to date include an 80% success rate for people moving into housing, as measured by the absence of their return to homelessness. Tulsa has received a top rating for its housing of the chronically homeless population for medium-sized cities from 100,000 Homes. Further, the campaign, as calculated by the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce, will have an estimated $22 million impact on the local economy over a five-year period.

The campaign also challenged local homeless shelters, treatment providers, and other social-service entities—including private, government, and faith-based funded programs—to band together under what is now called “A Way Home for Tulsa.” The effort has led 16 different organizations to join forces to create seamless, user-friendly services with one goal/outcome in mind: to end chronic homelessness in Tulsa once and for all. The goal allows for people who become homeless for any reason to remain homeless for only short periods of time, preventing their loss into the abyss of chronic homelessness.

There has been a commitment on the part of those making efforts to end chronic homelessness in Tulsa to share what has been learned with other communities. However, this learning is a two-way street. It involves sharing what has been learned with others and learning from others about their successes in their respective communities. The combined learning process touches fundraising, housing development, care for special populations, and the design of successful programs that help people to live sustainable, stigma-free lives.

National “Lessons Learned” Symposium

To that end, the Mental Health Association and Mental Health America are co-hosting a national conference to bring the best of the best from across the country to Tulsa. The 2012 National Zarrow Mental Health Symposium and Mental Health America Annual Conference—titled From Housing to Recovery, Building Community Building Lives—will be held in Tulsa from September 19-21, 2012.  

We hope to see you in Tulsa for this amazing event!

Bill Major is executive director of the Zarrow Family FoundationsThe Zarrow families are committed to providing support for the disadvantaged (including mentally ill and mentally and physically challenged children, youth and adults and the homeless). They do this through providing educational opportunities, social services, health and mental health programs, medical research and housing. Their geographical preference is the Tulsa area, however, they give to Jewish causes all over the world.

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