The City of Tulsa, along with several community partners, will continue a program that helps contact, educate and connect homeless individuals with social services in the city.
The second week of this 8-day program, “Operation Direct and Connect,” will be in effect from October 5 to October 9 and will provide more data for ongoing strategic plan implementation and updates to make homelessness in Tulsa rare, brief and non-recurring.
City of Tulsa partners include the Tulsa Police Department (TPD), Tulsa Fire Department (TFD), Working in Neighborhoods and Municipal Courts; along with two service agencies, Mental Health Association Oklahoma and Family & Children’s Services. The City of Tulsa is partnering with two of the agencies that already have ongoing, continuous homeless outreach. The partnership between the law enforcement and social service is a best practice used nationwide that is shown to increase data about community needs, reduce arrests and modify systems to decrease homelessness.
This is the third installment of “Operation Direct and Connect.” The first partnership occurred in November of 2018. This installment of “Operation Direct and Connect” is based on the model used in the 2018 iteration. The 2018 effort, which ran over nine days, encountered 260 individuals experiencing homelessness, interviewed and assessed the needs of 188 individuals, and provided 51 with an opportunity to resolve outstanding municipal warrants.
“We have a lot of data, but we also have a lot of theories and guesses. Since we are already interacting with people experiencing homelessness because of calls, we want to take it a step further. Our team continues to collect more information during this round of outreach to better understand the magnitude of the homelessness problem and the unique circumstances of each person,” said Tulsa Police Captain Shellie Seibert. “We want to use the new information to update our solutions to help reduce the number of people experiencing homelessness, and hopefully give us more solutions to prevent it. You can’t have solutions until you understand the problems.”
The teams consist of two TPD officers and two to three caseworkers. Teams will spend each day focusing on one of the three Tulsa Police Department Patrol Divisions – Gilcrease, Mingo Valley and Riverside.
“The goal of this project is to determine the needs of the unsheltered/homeless population and connect them to the appropriate social service,” Seibert said. “By taking a contact and connect approach, we hope to reduce the number of neighborhood complaints related to people experiencing homelessness while improving the lives of all citizens.”
Other community partners helping with referrals and follow-ups include the Department of Veterans Affairs, Youth Services of Tulsa and the City’s Working in Neighborhoods department.
Seibert said officers are often called out on incidents or checks regarding people experiencing homelessness near neighborhoods. Another goal of the outreach program is to educate people experiencing homelessness on City ordinances they may be breaking that often result in police calls for service, she said.
Municipal Courts also connects people experiencing homelessness to the Special Services Docket, which is a program that allows them to potentially clear warrants and fines. The Special Services docket will be held one week after “Operation Direct and Connect.”
Seibert said the information from this outreach effort will provide a critical needs assessment, capturing reasons for homelessness, and determining beneficial, effective tactics and partnerships.
“Tulsa officers already are called out on enforcement issues, taking time and money from handling more serious calls, so why not have them actively gathering information that can lead to better results in the future,” Seibert said.
“There are instances where neighborhood complaints regarding a person experiencing homelessness results in an arrest. When they leave jail, they go back to where they were,” she said. “We want to do more to break that cycle.”