Homeless Alliance and Curbside Chronicle offer hope for the unhoused
The Homeless Alliance, a non-profit organization based in Oklahoma City, is working to provide resources and services for people experiencing homelessness in the metro.
The non-profit offers a day shelter, a street outreach program, employment opportunities, and a housing program for those transitioning out of homelessness.
Taylor Self, director of communications at The Homeless Alliance, said that the street outreach program is often the first step.
“Part of what we’re trying to do is meet people where they are,” Self said. “It allows us to continue to forge relationships that will sometimes mend that trust and get them to use those services.”
The day shelter, one of the most popular resources provided by the non-profit, serves around 300 people every day.
The day shelter is one of Oklahoma City’s only low-barrier shelters for people experiencing homelessness. They offer entry to people regardless of age, gender, sobriety, animals, or, in some cases, behavior.
“We often will give many chances to people to access these services,” Self said. “We just really want to make sure that people are able to access the things that they really need.”
The shelter offers visitors two meals a day, access to showers and bathrooms, lockers, mail services, a barbershop, an art studio, and resources for companion animals including daily kennel services, monthly vet visits, a spay and neuter clinic, and food/comfort items for pets.
Self said that the non-profit also provides enrichment activities for visitors such as themed food for holidays, dancing classes, musical guests, and an open-art studio that operates twice a week.
“Those positive social moments can have a really great effect on people,” said Self. “We’ve had some artists come in and tell us that when they come into the art class, it helps them forget about some of their problems.”
The organization also hosts three annual art shows where people experiencing homelessness who utilize the art studio are able to sell their work and keep all of the profits.
“It’s just a cool moment to show them that their ideas matter, that their creativity is important, Self said. “It makes people really feel confident and good about themselves.”
The Curbside Chronicle, one of the many employment opportunities offered by the Homeless Alliance, is one of the longest-running programs and employs around 140 people experiencing homelessness each month.
Upon signing up for the program, vendors receive a green vest that allows them to be easily identifiable to passersby and 15 copies of magazines. Once the magazines are sold, vendors get to keep 100% of the profits.
Nathan Poppe, a former writer for The Oklahoman and current editor for The Curbside Chronicle, said he has eye-opening experiences every day since making the career switch to work with the non-profit.
“At the end of the day, my job is really similar to what I’ve always done. I just talk to interesting people and now I spend a lot of time talking to people who don’t normally get that opportunity,” Poppe said. “They absolutely have all of these thoughts and feelings and experiences, but just getting a little help kind of organizing these into a beginning, middle, and end.”
The magazine’s topics vary from month to month, but Poppe said they often include stories and experiences shared by members of the homeless population in Oklahoma City.
Vendors who stay with the Curbside Chronicle program are offered positions at the non-profit’s Curbside Flowers or Curbside Apparel shops.
Curbside Apparel, where vendors earn a screen-printing certification, and Curbside Flowers, where vendors create bouquets, are aimed at teaching job skills in more conventional work environments.
“The vendors are the heart of the program,” Poppe said. “They can show you that not only can they make beautiful things, but they can be artists themselves.”
The non-profit also provides housing programs aimed at helping those experiencing homelessness who are veterans, HIV positive, escaping domestic violence, exiting the justice system, families with children, and people who have experienced chronic homelessness.
“People experiencing homelessness are people. They’re someone’s son or daughter, they’re someone’s sister or brother, they’re our neighbors,” said Self. “Just because they’ve run into a difficult time doesn’t mean they need to be discarded.”
“It is solvable and something that we can fix as a community. We just have to get on the same page,” said Poppe.