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Editor’s note: Today marks the beginning of a new column for Free Press. Marty Peercy will be covering Oklahoma City and Oklahoma County government. You may read his witty and informative live tweets from various meetings @OKC_SPAN. His column is called “How the Sausage is Made.”

July 19, 2019 was the first public meeting of the Mayor’s Task Force on Homelessness. It was a bit of a mess. It will likewise be a bit of a mess for the Mayor and this City to address homelessness.

How the sausage gets made

Local government according to columnist Marty Peercy

I was told by a member that the Task Force represents 50 organizations in Oklahoma City. I don’t know if that number indicates independent agencies or if, say, it includes multiple departments of the City of OKC. The agenda for the meeting lists 26 members. Regardless, the task force is very large and has the look of a real Too Many Cooks situation.

I know most of these people. Some of the agencies and programs represented in the group have had adversarial relationships in the past. As the Task Force goes about its business I will be interested to see if the Mayor can manage these relationships.

Strategic Planning

The bulk of the meeting was taken up by a presentation from Analytic Insights. A.I. is a consulting firm that has helped develop strategic plans to address homelessness in other cities. They have been contracted by the Task Force to develop one for OKC. It is not cheap, but lucky for you and me, a private foundation agreed to fund the project, so that’s not taking away from any public resources.

Amy Flowers, president of Analytic Insights, and a researcher whose name I never bothered recording, delivered the presentation. It was dry, as these things are.

Marty Peercy
Marty Peercy, government columnist for Oklahoma City Free Press.

Phase One of the process will be to gather information about the existing conditions in Oklahoma City. They plan to conduct a number of “Key Informant Interviews.” The interviews will be with people experiencing homelessness and agencies and organizations who provide services. At the end of Phase One there will be a public forum with stakeholders in order to share insights from the collected data.

Phase Two will have workshops with stakeholders about different topics, “prevention” or “increasing income” for example. These “Topic Areas” will lead to planning sessions and the development of goals. After that they will show us all a series of Very Fancy Charts and Graphs.

Audience Participation

After the presentation, attendees were invited to ask questions, which quickly devolved into attendees giving testimony to their own knowledge of the topic of homelessness. As these “less of a question, more of a statement” moments dragged on, one thing became very clear: Homelessness is very complicated. Solving Homelessness will also be complicated.

The presenters were asked for a timeline for completion of this project. Flowers said the process began on July 19 and their hope is that they will present their final recommendations by June 15. That’s a year from now, in case you are bad at math.

At that point the City and the various service providers and partner agencies will begin to take steps to address homelessness.

Peter Principle

I hope that this investment of time and money will result in some actionable intelligence and that the City and partner agencies will intelligently and compassionately pursue the goal of ending homelessness. I fear that this could be another boondoggle. Again, at least we’re not paying for it.

My neighbors and friends who don’t have a home might have been better served by a much smaller committee of actual experts designing action steps for right now. In a year, when we receive the reports of this consulting firm, let’s hope it’s not the least capable people in the room implementing the plan.

Last Updated July 28, 2019, 8:15 AM by Brett Dickerson – Editor