A year after Gov. Kevin Stitt dissolved a statewide council on ending homelessness, providers have launched an independent group to collect data and coordinate services in Oklahoma. 

The Interagency Council on Homelessness of Oklahoma launched this month and will fill the hole left by the former Governor’s Interagency Council on Homelessness, which was created by an executive order more than two decades ago. 

Stitt cited a need for smaller government last year when he dissolved the council that worked to coordinate funding and services between providers as the number of unsheltered Oklahomans continues to grow. The group was made up primarily of volunteers and state employees and received no recurring funding from the state. 

“Everyone in this room knows we have not solved the problem of homelessness,” said Linda Love, director of planning and development for KI BOIS Community Action Foundation in southeast Oklahoma, during a launch meeting on May 22. “That is why the former executive committee of the (Governor’s Interagency Council on Homelessness) has worked to put together a private council in Oklahoma to continue the work that needs to be done.” 

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Advisory members of the new Interagency Council on Homelessness of Oklahoma pointed to issues like the state’s high eviction rates, growing numbers of people experiencing homelessness in metro areas and the end of pandemic relief programs.

“The scale, magnitude and reach” of the issue of homelessness requires people from different sectors and locations to work together, said Greg Shinn, an assistant executive director with the Oklahoma City Housing Authority who served on the governor’s former council. 

Volunteers survey people experiencing homelessness during the 2024 Point-in-Time count in Oklahoma City in January. NATHAN POPPE/Curbside Chronicle

The new council will craft a statewide plan to address homelessness, track data to share with the state and federal governments and bring together agencies and providers from across the state to coordinate funding and programs, Shinn said. 

Interagency councils exist across the country to coordinate services and report data. Without an executive order from the governor or a mandate from the Legislature, the new council won’t be able to require participation from government agencies like the Department of Corrections or the State Department of Education, said Dan Straughan, director of special projects with the Homeless Alliance. 

But the group, which is running as a nonprofit with funding from the nonprofit incubator Give Help, may eventually ask the Legislature to formalize its efforts. 

Sen. Julia Kirt, D-Oklahoma City, said coordinating around an issue as complex as homelessness should be a core state government function. 

While the state has invested in housing affordability programs, lawmakers are also approving new state laws prohibiting unauthorized camping on state-owned lands and debating how to more quickly remove squatters. Two of Kirt’s bills this session — one to create a state affordable housing commission and another to extend timelines in the eviction process — didn’t get a hearing on the Senate floor.

“There is a lack of interest in real solutions in this area,” Kirt said. “That’s why we need this bigger picture, coordinated thinking.” 

A spokeswoman for Stitt’s office said the governor would be supportive of Oklahomans “coming together to work towards solutions on homelessness.” 

Several other states also have independent councils to address homelessness. A spokeswoman from the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness said the national group will work with Oklahoma’s new council despite it being considered unofficial. 

The new council will decide its voting members by the end of June and have its first meeting in July.

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