OKC launches text donation program to fight homelessness
The city of Oklahoma City is rolling out a program designed to make it easier for residents to help homeless people.
The city, in conjunction with the United Way of Central Oklahoma, is launching a program that allows donors to make donations via text message to agencies that work with the city's homeless population.
“We're really hopeful that this will be a new and added way that people who want to help can do so conveniently," said Ward 6 Councilwoman Meg Salyer, who chairs the Oklahoma City Council's social services committee.
Potential donors may give by texting "HelpOKCHomeless" to 41444 and following the instructions provided. The system allows donors to give an amount of their choosing. Donors also may give at HelpOKCHomeless.com.
Donations will go to the United Way, which will distribute the contributions among 29 public agencies, private groups and faith-based organizations, including the Homeless Alliance, the Salvation Army and Goodwill Industries of Central Oklahoma.
Other recipient groups include ReMerge, a diversion program for nonviolent female offenders; Exodus House, a prison re-entry program operated by the Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church; and Positive Tomorrows, a nonprofit that provides elementary education for homeless children.
Salyer said the program is based on a similar partnership between the city of Denver and Mile High United Way. When Salyer learned about the Denver program, she contacted Debby Hampton, executive director of the United Way of Central Oklahoma, to see if a similar program could be put in place here.
Hampton said the program makes use of partnerships the United Way had already established with credible agencies that have shown results. The program is designed to give users a convenient way to give, as well as assurance that their gifts will be used effectively.
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“I think it's a good way for our public to give and feel it's making an impact," she said.
Oklahoma City has made recent progress in its fight against homelessness. The city's annual Point-in-Time count, released last month, suggests the city's homeless population shrank by about 10 percent over the past year.
But that progress came despite a 28 percent increase in the number of homeless families recorded in the report. Advocates say that increase was caused by a combination of the rising cost of rent and a lack of available resources for helping those families.