Homeless Problems in Oklahoma
We often hear of homeless issues in places like New York City and in San Francisco. At least we hear about it in the more conservative media. Interestingly, homelessness was first used as a political issue when Ronald Reagan was president, when Democrats tried to pin the blame on him.
But once a Democrat is elected president, the media finds the problem not newsworthy.
We have heard about how the city of San Francisco is suffering from problems related to people living on the street – and even defecating on the streets and sidewalks – but we think those problems are something on the West Coast and other metropolitan areas like Chicago and New York City. But this is a problem in our state, as well, although our local progressive media fails to say much about it, either.
Norman is home to the University of Oklahoma, and is an island of progressivism in our state. Not surprisingly, the progressive policies of the left-leaning city council of Norman have contributed greatly to the problems associated with an ever-increasing homeless population.
Recently, a local minister spoke to the Norman City Council about this issue, and here are his remarks to them:
I am Pastor Chad Bartlett and I would love to be a team player in helping to solve the problem we have in Norman of those living in the open without homes. My wife and I opened our business called GoKids, a daycare, in 2005 and since then it has grown from a handful of children to over 100 daily. Because of this growth, we moved to the scenic property by the river.
We have hosted campouts on our river front property and our older children have enjoyed taking nature walks. Our acreage used to be a good place for recreation until interactions with the homeless became concerning and unsafe. We had even hosted an all night campout to raise money for a church and orphanage in Jamaica. The orphans had no roof on their building. Our church body partnered with Chris Hammonds and Scout from the hit TV show SURVIVOR to host a campout to raise money for a roof for the orphans home. It was an incredible success. That was 2015.
In 2019, it started with a few homeless people living in an abandoned car which was eventually removed. From that time until now, I want to describe to you what it has been like at our daycare near the river. We have been broken into twice. We have made regular calls to the fire department because of the fires near the river, causing smoke to cover the air over our daycare. We found our shuttle bus vandalized with every window broken out. Countless unknown men have walked across our property to gain access to the river, many times with erratic behavior, which is unsettling to our daycare workers and the children.
At pick up time for the children, a river resident on a bicycle began harassing a staff worker who was carrying out the trash. My protective nature kicked in and I told the guy to leave her alone. He immediately turned his direction toward me and peddled as fast as he could yelling “I’m gonna kill you, you Mother F%#^ preacher.” At the last second before hitting me, he veered off to the side.
The Adkins Crossing Park is located right next to our daycare. One day while our children were playing in the park, they found a bag and alerted their teacher. The bag contained not only clothing, but also anal sex toys covered with excrement. This is a disgusting memory tied to our once well loved park.
Currently, there are multiple camps set up in the brush of our property. I will describe them. Multiple tents, a white utility van, fire pits, threatening signs, and even a chained dog, able to run the length of the fence on our property, multiple piles of trash, including inappropriate and dangerous items such as broken smart phones, liquor bottles, condoms, and marijuana paraphernalia.
I, as a pastor and a man, do not feel at peace with having church gatherings or even fundraisers like we had for the orphans on our own property like we once enjoyed. Daily, women walk from the river camps and are picked up in different vehicles by men. This past Sunday, during our church services, three suspected prostitutes were removed from our property by law enforcement. In addition to this human trafficking, two bodies have been found in the field adjacent to our property in the past two years.
Many have asked me why they have never heard of these deaths. I am asking the same question myself. If we don’t know the gravity of the problem, it will probably never be solved. I have given examples that affect human lives first for a reason. We all care about people the most. But now I bring up another important issue. The environmental abuse to the land by our once beautiful river. You will now find trash, remains of drug use, and human excrement on this land. This is not what Norman is supposed to be. We are supposed to be a clean and safe place. But this decay and destruction is what it has become. We are being vigilant to ensure that our children and staff are safe, but this issue needs to be resolved for the safety of our childcare center and church as well the natural environment.
Currently GO Church and GO Kids have installed multiple cameras inside and outside. We have multiple security volunteers serving on Sunday mornings. Individuals that used to come and worship in the Chapel, now have to leave their families to walk the property during service. We have been trained by law enforcement in case someone comes in the church armed and posing a threat. We have personnel watching cameras during childcare hours. Because of this vigilance, just this past weekend we were able to call the Norman police because three women were allegedly engaged in prostitution just a few yards from the doors of our church.
I have been asked, “What is the role of the church?” Jesus shared a story in Luke 10:30-37… “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. Likewise, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”
So here is what Jesus would do: 1. Remove the person from the bad situation immediately to prevent further harm. 2. Get him the help he needs. 3. Ensure he doesn’t end up in the same situation. Jesus would NEVER leave these people homeless and His children threatened. But this is what is happening before our eyes. In the Old Testament we read about four lepers cast out into the streets and finally coming to themselves. 2 Kings 7: 3 ... Now there were four leprous men at the entrance of the gate; and they said to one another, “Why are we staying here until we die?”
I am asking the same question. Why are we leaving these people until they die? What should and can be done? 1. ID all criminals and have them taken into custody 2. All of those with mental illness relocate to a facility to help with their illness 3. All of those in need of basic care (diabetes, high blood pressure, etc) be taken to clinics and local medical facilities to meet the basic needs 4. All of those who are estranged from family or friends – have them returned 5. Those that will not comply and want to stay, just simply say NO. NO, we love you so much that we will not sit by and watch your lives be destroyed. These individuals will be given a period of one week to get their belongings and trash removed and then after that they are trespassing.
I am not naïve to the fact that there are additional ideas. But this is a rough draft that I believe can take us toward a real solution. For the future of The River and Our goal for GO Church and Go Kids: The River campus is not a place where the gates are locked and no one is welcome, but a place the entire city can enjoy. We would love to create the most incredible scenic views in the city limits. We want to build a gazebo to host weddings, concerts, overnight campouts etc. We have even partnered with the University of Oklahoma for several nature and conservatory functions on the river. We would love to expand that even more. We’d like to have a walkway built so families could come down, grab a blanket and have a picnic. God truly gave us a blessing and we want to share it with you. Thank you for listening and I will be praying that we can come together to make real changes that will make our Norman clean and safe once again. (Incidences: alleged rape, drug overdose, a stolen U-Haul from Tulsa left in the parking area, and even death (murder).)
God bless, Pastor Chad
Hopefully, this impassioned address to the Norman City Council will alert not only the people of Norman to this growing problem, but also the rest of our state.