Okmulgee County Homeless Shelter discusses impact of Operation Roundup donations
In the last five years, donations from members like you, made through Operation Roundup have helped the Okmulgee County Homeless Shelter (OCHS) repair a leaking roof, purchase a commercial sized refrigerator and freezer, and are now being used to purchase stacking washer and dryers so that more than one resident can do laundry at a time.
Through other donations, OCHS has expanded from a 20-bed to a 40-bed facility and is in the process of much needed repairs to the old downtown hotel the shelter calls home.
“Operation Roundup has helped me with so many projects and things that we need,” OCHS Executive Director Brenda Brewer said. “This building still needs a lot of work, but Operation Roundup is helping.”
OCHS gives the homeless population of Okmulgee, McIntosh, Hughes and Okfuskee counties a place to lay their head, do their laundry, and eat while they look for work and try to get back on their feet.
On any given month there have been 15 to 25 people staying in the shelter, but that has added up to more than 9,000 people served since 1995. The shelter houses men, women, married couples and families, all in designated dorms.
“A lot of people stigmatize the homeless as lazy, self-sabotaging and mentally unstable, but they are really just people,” Brewer said. “Most of our clients are just down on their luck. Some lost their jobs in the COVID economy. We have had several fire victims over the last several months. And even those with mental illness or recovering from drug addiction, they just need a little support.”
“Most people just need a kind word to help them find their confidence again,” Brewer said.
OCHS serves as the only homeless shelter in a 45-mile radius, but it also stands alone in other ways. They give vouchers for free clothing and home supplies from their thrift store. Occasionally they give Greyhound Bus tickets and transportation to job interviews and doctor visits.
The quaint, small size of the shelter allows staff to give clients one-on-one attention to help with resume building and job seeking for those who can be employed, and permanent resource assistance for those who need disability and public housing.
“My staff is very compassionate. They go the extra mile,” Brewer said, adding that a few of her staff members had previously been clients of the shelter, and have first-hand experience overcoming homeless and addiction. “What cuts us from the rest is our compassion, wanting to help these people, because we are God fearing.”
“We hire people that have a heart for the homeless, and our employees make a difference,” Brewer said.
Brewer told the story of a mother and daughter who left the shelter in early April. The mother had happy tears in her eyes as she hugged all the staff goodbye.
“She said she couldn’t have done it without us … that we pushed her to do better,” Brewer said.
Brewer thanks Operation Roundup contributors for the growth their organization has been able to achieve over the last five years.
“A lot of foundations in Tulsa and Oklahoma City, we can’t approach for help simply because of our geographic area,” Brewer said. “It makes a huge difference when you can depend on something like Operation Roundup to make a difference quickly in rural Oklahoma.”
“If they ever wonder what their contribution means to us, it means the world,” Brewer said.