Listen to this article here
In Oklahoma, the disbanding of the Governor’s Interagency Council on Homelessness raises eyebrows and fuels concern among those advocating for the rights of the homeless and housing insecure. This decision, made by Governor Kevin Stitt (R) who has built his fortune in the mortgage lending business, carries with it an unsettling undertone of self-interest that has plagued the governor’s office during his two terms in office.
As State Representative Monroe Nichols (D-Tulsa) puts it, “The governor’s decision to end the Interagency Council on Homelessness couldn’t come at a worse time for Oklahomans. Last year, Tulsa launched an aggressive effort to address this issue, and it’s a shame that the governor is waving a white flag to a challenge plaguing communities across the state.”
The Council, once a sign of hope for the most vulnerable, has become yet another casualty in a state that seems to be turning a blind eye to the plight of the homeless. With affordable housing becoming an increasingly distant dream for many Oklahomans, one cannot help but question the motives behind disbanding a body that aimed to tackle this very issue.
Governor built business on mortgage lending. Now he’s disbanded a statewide homelessness council
Tamara Wright, senior advisor at the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, emphasizes the importance of a collaborative approach, stating that “homelessness is a multi-system problem in need of multi-system solutions.”
The governor’s decision to dissolve the Council undermines the much-needed collaboration among housing, health, education, labor, criminal justice, foster care, and other sectors that work together to address homelessness.
Governor Stitt’s background as a mortgage lender adds an ironic twist to the story. In a state where housing insecurity and homelessness are heavily intertwined with the issue of unaffordable housing, his decision to dismantle the Council suggests a conflict between his personal financial interests and the well-being of vulnerable communities.
Faced with a state that seems to have abandoned its responsibility, communities must now rally around one another, building strength in the collective power of grassroots activism.
As Nichols points out, bipartisan solutions can be achieved when working together: “Earlier this session, I authored a bill that more than doubled the affordable housing tax credit, and it not only passed the House but gained Republican co-authors.”
Homeless Oklahomans face less support following governor’s decision
Oklahomans are no strangers to adversity. Nichols highlights the power of everyday Oklahomans, stating, “If it wasn’t for teachers walking out and taking advocacy in their own hands, we never would have gotten increases in education spending. If it wasn’t for voters, we wouldn’t have expanded Medicaid or substantial criminal justice reform. The state leaders have a history of sitting it out on important issues, and when they do, every day Oklahomans have proven time and again that these challenges can be addressed in the absence of political leadership. We can do the same thing on the issue of homelessness. I’d bet on the power of us every day of the week.”
In a tweet responding to the move by the Governor to reduce support for homeless residents, former GICH member Nicole Poindexter addresses Stitt’s recurring talking point of making Oklahoma a “Top Ten State.”
Poindexter said, “Homelessness is on the rise due to the pandemic, inflation and soaring housing costs. Disbanding this group removes a vital tool in our toolbox to help people. And it’s not going to benefit the state. As usual, we are soaring to Top Ten in all the wrong places.”
In the end, this tale of a disbanded Council and a governor with a conflict of interest serves as a stark reminder of the need for unwavering vigilance and tireless activism. As Oklahoma’s communities navigate the treacherous waters of housing insecurity and homelessness, we’re guided by the knowledge that the most reliable support system is the one we create for ourselves.