City Reviewing Proposals for Low Barrier Shelter to open in 2024
The City of Tulsa provided today the progress of nine immediate action steps Mayor Bynum announced this past August as part of the Housing, Homelessness, and Mental Health (3H) Task Force recommendations to maintain safe public spaces and increase the amount of quality, affordable places to live.
"I am incredibly thankful for the cumulative work of our team at the City, the City Council, and our community partners to implement these immediate action steps to address homelessness and public safety," Mayor G.T. Bynum said. "There has been an incredible sense of urgency when it comes to finding some immediate solutions for some of our most pressing issues as a city, and I'm grateful Tulsa has largely bought into that vision and is working together to address them."
The 3H Task Force continues to work with partners to further identify additional opportunities to help our most vulnerable residents. The 3H Task Force began meeting regularly in 2023 and held a public forum to receive feedback from residents. From those discussions, nine immediate steps emerged.
"I am thrilled to see that many of our immediate recommendations to facilitate temporary and permanent housing for those in need have made substantial progress," Tulsa City Council Chair Jeannie Cue said. "These initiatives would not be possible without the Tulsa Day Center, Tulsa Housing Authority, and the commitment of our other incredible partners. Our work is just beginning, and I appreciate the support of the community as we continue progress."
3H Task Force Action Step Updates:
Action Step 1: Emergency Temporary Housing
Funding secured. On December 20, the City Council approved a $3.1 million budget amendment for this program. When operational, the Emergency Temporary Housing program will provide 25 units of temporary housing to help 100+ unsheltered individuals per year, while also providing them with supportive services with the goal of transitioning them to permanent housing.
Action Step 2: Priority Housing Placement
Funding secured. On December 20, the City Council approved a $150,000 budget amendment for this program. When fully functional, this partnership with the Tulsa Housing Authority (THA) will create a housing preference for chronically homeless individuals. As part of the effort, THA revised its program screening requirements for criminal background checks to expand affordable housing options including the removal of 34 out of 47 screening criteria and reducing the look-back period from five years to two years.
Action Step 3: Low Barrier Shelter
RFP Closed. A request for proposals (RFP) from entities to operate the facility closed Dec. 20. RFP submissions are being reviewed. When opened, the Low Barrier Shelter will help 50-75+ individuals at a time, operate on a referral basis, and will assist those with barriers to entry into other local shelters.
Action Step 4: Expanding Animal Accommodations
Funding Secured. The budget amendment to add permanent space for animals at the Tulsa Day Center has been approved. The permanent space will include kennels, a wash station, and other animal accommodations to reduce barriers to entry in a traditional shelter environment. Construction is anticipated to begin Q1 of 2024.
Action Step 5: Open Containers in City Parks
Complete. The Parks and Recreation Board approved new rules allowing the Parks Director to regulate open containers and/or consumption of alcohol in individual parks. The new rules will initially focus on addressing public safety concerns in Downtown parks to prohibit alcoholic beverages except at permitted events. As part of the updated rules, new signs were installed last week at Chapman Green.
Action Step 6: Trespassing on Private Property
Complete. The Tulsa City Council introduced and Mayor Bynum signed an updated trespassing ordinance that makes it easier for individuals detained for trespassing to be considered for a diversion or specialty court program, while at the same time strengthening the City's enforcement capabilities as work continues to combat chronic offenders.
The new ordinance does not change what is defined as trespassing. The maximum penalty for a first offense remains the same, up to a $200 fine plus the court costs. The ordinance adds a second offense with a maximum penalty of up to a $500 fine plus costs and/or up to 10 days in jail. A Municipal Judge must inquire as to whether the individual would like to be considered for diversion or specialty court program prior to accepting a plea.
Action Step 7: Public Right-of-Way Obstruction
In progress. An ordinance clarifying it is illegal to obstruct rights-of-way with objects or persons will go before the Council for consideration in early 2024. The measure will apply to all streets, alleys, crosswalks, sidewalks, driveways or trails, and exceptions will be provided for extenuating circumstances. In the meantime, City security crews are proactively enforcing the City's ordinance that bans camping on public rights-of-way, with a contract now in place with the Center for Employment Opportunities to clean up sites where litter has been left. Additional funding will be sought from the Tulsa City Council to expand the work of these crews.
Action Step 8: Private Right-of-Way Enforcement
In progress. To enforce trespassing laws related to camping, sleeping and littering/dumping on private rights-of-way, the City has already sought and received permission from the railroads to remove campsites from their property. Additional permissions are being asked from the Oklahoma Department of Transportation and the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority.
Action Step 9: Consistent Approach to Public Safety
Complete. Mayor Bynum has directed Tulsa Police to enforce all laws equally regardless of perceived housing status.