The Oklahoman had an editorial today about the increase in the numbers of Oklahomans needing assistance to get by. Food stamp usage has reached an all time high in Oklahoma. It is a sobering editorial, but an issue that needs to be acknowledged. As I read the article, I couldn’t help but think of some of the people I spoke to during the homeless count, an event organized by the Oklahoma City Homeless Alliance. The Homeless Alliance does this process annually and the numbers will be out in a couple of weeks to show the statistical data that was collected that day and night. However, it isn’t the statistics that will stick with those of us who participated in the process. It is the real people and their stories that will stick with me. More than once that night, I spoke to people who were recently homeless – for the first time in their lives. The stories were similar. Loss of a job and mounting bills eventually lead to the need to receive assistance from the government through food stamps and then, eventually, to the loss of a home. I talked to one gentleman for a while who had only been homeless for a matter of days. He had never received assistance before this downturn. His voice and demeanor didn’t express great sorrow, or anger, or much of anything. He just seemed somewhat numb, as if he could hardly believe he had gotten to this point. He almost seemed apologetic.
The editorial in this morning’s Oklahoman makes sure that we don’t forget that the recession, although not as bad in our state as in some other parts of the country, is hurting Oklahomans in very real ways. Children going to bed hungry and once proudly employed adults now find themselves in need of assistance from either the government or local non-profit agencies. These are the realities that are taking place in our state as a result of the global recession. It is important to keep these human stories in mind when we read the data that is available though sources like our monthly Numbers You Need releases. The people who are feeling the effects of this recession in the most basic of ways, through a shortage of food and maybe a lack of shelter, are potentially behind every one of the statistics we all use to evaluate the big picture of how things look in our state.
Keep that in mind when you look at this.