First Lady Kim Henry spoke this week to a room full of guests regarding the issue of homelessness and near homelessness in Shawnee during a fundraiser dinner held for Shawnee Rescue Mission.
“Homelessness is not an individual problem, it’s a problem that faces our whole community,” she said. “If homelessness is a community problem, it takes a whole community working together to make a difference.”
Henry, who was joined at the dinner by husband Gov. Brad Henry, also spoke of her support for and shared vision with SRM and her initial reaction to Melissa Blankenship, SRM founder, and Angie Phillips, SRM vice president.
“When they walked into my office, I didn’t know what was about to hit me,” she said. “I really got pulled into it because I saw the vision; I saw God in what they’re doing.”
The first lady told guests how the common perception of the homeless is that of a single male but “that perception is wrong.”
“More and more, it’s women and children and that number is growing,”she said. “Homelessness in children creates a bigger problem...It’s hard to focus in school when you don’t know where you’re sleeping that night.”
Henry said “poverty in Shawnee is not easily seen unless you’re looking for it,” as it is in bigger cities, such as Oklahoma City. She said in August 2009, from one count alone, more than 100 homeless people were living under bridges and on the railroad tracks in Shawnee.
In addition to the homeless living outdoors, Henry said an even larger number of homeless children and families “bounces from relatives’ home to relatives’ home” and from shelter to shelter.
Henry said she and the governor were pleased to be back in their hometown to support SRM and to help raise funds for the mission to purchase a building, located at Ninth and Louisa streets, that would operate as a “one-stop shop for the homeless and near homeless in Shawnee.”
“We’re taking positive action to help the less fortunate but we can’t do it alone,” she said, adding that other local organizations could come together in a partnership with the mission. “I do not believe the benefits of this new building and its services will end in Shawnee...I believe others will see this vision and what we are doing here and it will spread to other cities within the state.”
Tom Jones, City Rescue Mission of Oklahoma City president, said he also has faith in SRM.
“I believe if there’s anyone in this town that can do this, it’s this group,” Jones said of SRM. “I’m so impressed with this team...When they came, I knew there was something different about these two ladies...They give a new meaning to ‘tenacity.’ They just kept coming and coming.”
Blankenship said she believes God opened her heart to the homeless to“awaken our city and bring awareness to the issue of homelessness...to bring a voice to the voiceless.”
“I’m just so thankful, grateful, the city of Shawnee came together for this,” she said. “We need a city that’s united, not divided.”
The building, which has been offered to SRM for $350,000 could bepurchased with a combination of the $175,000 and a matching grant equalto that amount if the Sarkeys Foundation approves the grant at its meeting next month.
Watch for updates.
Posted on Thu, April 1, 2010
by Main Administrator