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Understanding the Need for Low-Barrier Shelters in Tulsa: An Essential Step Towards Ending Homelessness

In the mission to end homelessness in Tulsa, emergency shelters play a pivotal role as a first line of defense for individuals and families experiencing housing crises. With the City of Tulsa’s recent release of an RFP (Request for Proposal) for a Low-Barrier shelter, it’s the perfect time to delve into what these shelters are, and why they’re so crucial for our community.

What is a low-barrier shelter?

At its core, a low-barrier shelter operates with the philosophy that everyone, regardless of their circumstances or challenges, deserves a safe place to stay. Embracing the Housing First approach, these shelters ensure that access to emergency shelter is immediate, without requiring people to meet certain conditions like sobriety, employment, or participation in treatment.

Why is this so important?

Simply put, by lowering the barriers to entry, we’re ensuring that the most vulnerable among us — those who might not fit the traditional criteria for assistance — are not left outside. Everyone should have the right to basic safety and shelter, and Low-Barrier shelters are a step in that direction.

In addition, low-barrier shelters that accommodate pets address a critical and often overlooked barrier to housing for many individuals experiencing homelessness. For numerous people, pets serve as loyal companions, sources of emotional support, and in many cases, a lifeline during times of distress or isolation. Traditional shelters often have policies that prohibit animals, presenting individuals with the heart-wrenching decision of choosing between a safe place to sleep and staying with their beloved pets. Low-barrier shelters recognize the deep bond between people and their pets, and by offering accommodations that keep both owner and pet together, they ensure that no one is forced to make such a painful choice. Moreover, by catering to pet owners, these shelters broaden their reach, enabling more individuals to access the shelter and support services, thus facilitating a quicker journey back to stability and housing.

About the RFP

The City of Tulsa has released an RFP for professional services to operate a non-congregate low barrier shelter and case management program, specifically catering to unsheltered individuals with mental or physical health limitations. This program, designed for 50-75 households, aims to provide intensive case management and health care services, targeting the resolution of root causes of homelessness and assisting people with permanent housing within 120 days. The City’s federal funds will cover the program’s initial year, including facility leasing expenses, with operations anticipated to start by December 1, 2023. Respondents are encouraged to secure and propose their own facility, though the City may also suggest one during the RFP process.

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