The Oklahoma Health Equity and Resource Opportunities - HERO - initiative will discuss “Homelessness in Central Oklahoma” at their meeting Thursday, Jan. 21.

For anyone locally who would like to attend, a videoconference will be available at the Ottawa County Health Department, located at 1930 N. Elm.

The guest speaker is the Executive Director of the Homeless Alliance, Dan Straughan. Straughan has helped build the community’s capacity to better care for the homeless. His innovations include sharing data and creating community standards for the homeless shelters, developing a free, bus-based transportation system for the homeless and developing the WestTown Resource Center to provide a “one-stop-shop” of comprehensive services for the homeless and those at risk of homelessness.

Straughan will provide demographic information on homelessness in central Oklahoma and the problems faced in getting access to health care by people living in poverty. A lack of access to health care is a social determinant that often leads to homelessness. Other social determinants of health include availability of food supply, housing, economic and social relationships, transportation and education, all of which can determine the length and quality of life.

Straughan will discuss “best practices” in other communities and how they are used to try to address issues of the homeless in Oklahoma City. There are approximately 1,500 homeless in Oklahoma City every night and an additional 7,500 “couch homeless,” i.e. people who have lost their own housing but are staying with relatives, friends or others.

“Health equity in public health literature and practice is when everyone has the opportunity to attain their full health potential and no one is disadvantaged from achieving this potential because of their social position or other socially determined circumstance,” said OSDH HERO Director Marisa New Wells.

To find out more about the Jan. 21 videoconference that will be held at 10 a.m., contact the Ottawa County Health Department at 540-2481.