[Hpn] Neighborhood Residents Oppose Plans For Homeless Center

William C. Tinker wtinker@verizon.net
Wed, 04 Jul 2007 17:00:39 -0400


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Neighborhood Residents Oppose Plans For Homeless Center

July 4, 2007

http://www.koco.com/news/13621061/detail.html

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Residents near downtown Oklahoma City expressed =
opposition to the city's plan to build a day center and social services =
campus for the homeless, saying the facility could lead to violence in =
the neighborhood.=20

Dennis Whitaker, who spoke on behalf of several other Willard =
Neighborhood residents opposing the project, said city council members =
disregarded neighborhood concerns when they approved spending $115,000 =
to help fund the homeless center.=20

"The majority of the residents and the businesses of the Willard =
Neighborhood don't want it," Whitaker said. "If you build it, they are =
going to come. I don't want my tax dollars going to this."=20

Dan Straughan, executive director of the Homeless Alliance, asked =
council members to support the project with $115,000 a year for 10 =
years. The council agreed to pay for the first year of that request in =
the annual city budget approved last month.=20

"I think we've become a society of enablers who've made it easier to =
take the free ride than to work for a living," Whitaker said. "I believe =
the reality of the situation is about 80 percent of these people just =
need to get a job and quit thinking the world owes them a living."=20

Ward 6 Councilwoman Ann Simank, who represents the area, said Whitaker's =
complaints reflect misconceptions about the homeless problem.=20

"A lot of people may not have an awareness of who the homeless really =
are," said Simank, who worked with the homeless and mentally ill while =
employed with North Care counseling center. "Close to half of all the =
homeless people that we have surveyed suffer from a mental illness or =
substance abuse or co-occurring disorders, and are in need of =
treatment."=20

Simank said it isn't easy for someone with an untreated mental illness =
to keep a job.=20

"With the correct treatment and the proper medications, they may very =
well with training be able to do that," Simank said. "But you can't just =
grab them up off the street and put them in employment. It just wouldn't =
work."=20

Whitaker warned that if council members continue to ignore neighborhood =
complaints, there could be violence. He pointed to the recently passed =
Stand Your Ground law, which allows people to meet force with force if =
attacked.
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<H1 class=3DHeadline>Neighborhood Residents Oppose Plans For Homeless =
Center</H1>
<P>
<DIV class=3Dposted>July 4, 2007</DIV>
<DIV class=3Dposted>&nbsp;</DIV>
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<DIV class=3DStoryBody><!--startindex--><B class=3DDateline>OKLAHOMA =
CITY --=20
</B>Residents near downtown Oklahoma City expressed opposition to the =
city's=20
plan to build a day center and social services campus for the homeless, =
saying=20
the facility could lead to violence in the neighborhood.=20
<P></P>Dennis Whitaker, who spoke on behalf of several other Willard=20
Neighborhood residents opposing the project, said city council members=20
disregarded neighborhood concerns when they approved spending $115,000 =
to help=20
fund the homeless center.=20
<P></P>"The majority of the residents and the businesses of the Willard=20
Neighborhood don't want it," Whitaker said. "If you build it, they are =
going to=20
come. I don't want my tax dollars going to this."=20
<P></P>Dan Straughan, executive director of the Homeless Alliance, asked =
council=20
members to support the project with $115,000 a year for 10 years. The =
council=20
agreed to pay for the first year of that request in the annual city =
budget=20
approved last month.=20
<P></P>"I think we've become a society of enablers who've made it easier =
to take=20
the free ride than to work for a living," Whitaker said. "I believe the =
reality=20
of the situation is about 80 percent of these people just need to get a =
job and=20
quit thinking the world owes them a living."=20
<P></P>Ward 6 Councilwoman Ann Simank, who represents the area, said =
Whitaker's=20
complaints reflect misconceptions about the homeless problem.=20
<P></P>"A lot of people may not have an awareness of who the homeless =
really=20
are," said Simank, who worked with the homeless and mentally ill while =
employed=20
with North Care counseling center. "Close to half of all the homeless =
people=20
that we have surveyed suffer from a mental illness or substance abuse or =

co-occurring disorders, and are in need of treatment."=20
<P></P>Simank said it isn't easy for someone with an untreated mental =
illness to=20
keep a job.=20
<P></P>"With the correct treatment and the proper medications, they may =
very=20
well with training be able to do that," Simank said. "But you can't just =
grab=20
them up off the street and put them in employment. It just wouldn't =
work."=20
<P></P>Whitaker warned that if council members continue to ignore =
neighborhood=20
complaints, there could be violence. He pointed to the recently passed =
Stand=20
Your Ground law, which allows people to meet force with force if =
attacked.<!--stopindex--></DIV></DIV></BODY></HTML>

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