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May 13, 2014

Homelessness has widespread impact

CHICKASHA — Thousands of Oklahomans spend the night on the street. Alan Barton from Chickasha is among them.

Barton doesn't have a home, but has a record with the Chickasha police that spans seven years.

He has been arrested by Chickasha Police 33 times since 2007 for offenses including stealing food from a convenience store, trespassing, public intoxication and warrants.

Chickasha Police Chief Eddie Adamson said police refer people to other organizations, such as homeless shelters, regularly to help solve their problems.

"The unfortunate thing is only thing we can do is arrest them and go from there. Afterward, we can refer them to homeless shelters," Adamson said. "We do anything we can to help–we would prefer people take advantage of social programs before we encounter them."

Most recently, Barton was arrested for stealing food from the Love's convenience store on April 30.    

Grady County Jail Administrator Shane Wyatt said Barton has spent approximately 440 days in the Grady County Jail since 2007.

Wyatt said the cost to house an inmate in the jail is approximately $40 per person per day, which would make the cost of housing Barton since 2007 approximately $17,600.

Homelessness is an issue with widespread impact and cost across the state.

At the state level, in 2013, Oklahoma had a homeless population of 4,408, according to a report by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Oklahoma City Homeless Alliance Executive Director Dan Straughan said a 2010 study estimated the cost of homelessness in the city to be $28 million per year, with about $14 million per year going to police, fire and jail costs related to the homeless.

"Housing first is the solution," Straughan said. "You don't wait for them to be ready for housing, we take them and put them in housing and place them with a social worker."

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