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Oklahoma City: A Big League Tent City

Updated: Jul 20, 2022

Last night I had a dream that, knowing July 19th was likely going to be the hottest July day on record in the history of OKC, we went out and bought a bunch of water, drinks, and snacks, iced them down, and handed them out to the homeless community up and down N. Penn and Western Ave., where many of the tent cities that dot our city's landscape are located. The dream slipped back into my subconscious, but then I was about to take a nap in the comfort of our AC as the weather hit 111°, and as I was trying to drift off the dream made its way back to my conscious mind. I told my girlfriend Melissa about it, and we decided we had to do something besides sit comfortably in our AC while others were out in this potentially deadly heat.

So we bought about 160 drinks: bottled water, Gatorade, fruit juices, and iced them down. We also added a bunch of snack foods, including some cherry tomatoes from our garden, and drove down to N.W. 10th and Western, then over to Penn and headed south, stopping every time we saw people who were suffering in the unbearable heat.

Honestly I thought we bought way too much, because surely the City of OKC, the various nonprofits, many of whom are funded largely by our tax dollars, and yes even local churches would have taken care of the needs of the least fortunate among us on the HOTTEST JULY DAY IN OKC HISTORY!!!

But we handed out every single bottle of iced water, Gatorade, juice, and every single snack, and could have given away much more if we had it. We gave at least 75 to 100 people what we had, kind people who were grateful and who frankly shouldn’t have to live in tents (if they’re lucky), or sleep on medians and sidewalks near deserted buildings.

I’m really saying all this to point out that it is absolutely inexcusable that Mayor David Holt is out shilling for a new stadium for billionaire Clay Bennett’s OKC Thunder, and that we’re touting our cred as a Big League City when we can’t even care for those who desperately need help. Our help. Taxpayers’ help. A helping hand from the billionaires who financially suck our city dry year after year after year.

It is an absolute disgrace, and I want every single person in OKC to dream about it at night just like I do. I hope Holt, and Clay Bennett, and all the other greedy oligarchs’ dreams are invaded by the images that we saw today, people needing help, suffering, and being too often ignored.

On our way home, back to our duplex, extremely humble but air conditioned and with all the necessary amenities to keep us comfortable, healthy, and safe, Melissa saw a food truck and commented that there should be a homeless food truck that drives around to all the well known tent cities scattered across the OKC metro area every single day, making sure they are at the very least fed and hydrated on the hottest of all days. Maybe even a mobile medical van that meets the homeless population where they live, and a mental health van that checks on them and provides access to the various facilities (of which there aren’t nearly enough). It would be a great start until we decide to prioritize those who need our help the most in the same way we have prioritized the selfish lustful desires of the millionaires and billionaires who control the purse strings of every taxpaying citizen in our community.

Oh, one more thing. As we were driving back home, we passed by N.W. 10th and N. Western, our very first stop, where we had given food and drink to about half.a dozen homeless men struggling to find a bit of shade under a few straggly trees near the 7-Eleven. One of them had more obvious mental health needs than usual, and honestly looked pretty bad, but all we could do was make sure he had Gatorade, water, and a few snacks to keep him barely functional. It seemed to help, at least for the moment. But as we drove back past the spot where he sat on the curb, we saw several police cars, and as we got closer we saw an EMSA ambulance, lights flashing. There was nothing we could do but hope that he was inside the ambulance getting the help he needed, and that we wouldn’t be hearing about him on the news as another casualty of an uncaring society.

I write this in the comfort of my living room, cooled down after our small gesture of kindness, eating a healthy meal, and feeling very aware that the line between lower income and homelessness, while it might be a fine line, is a stark, easily visible one. Even those of us with modest means live in luxury when compared to what they suffer through every day. If the billionaires living like actual emperors refuse to fix the problems, then it is up to us, the commoners they look down upon, to do what they can’t, or more accurately won’t do.

The truth is this: If we can build arenas for billionaires, we can build transitional housing for the homeless. If we can subsidize the richest among us, surely we can conjure up enough compassion to provide the barest of necessities so that everyone can survive the sweltering heat of summer and the numbing cold in winter. If we can build row after row of luxurious condos for the wealthy, then we can provide mental health facilities, drug and alcohol addiction treatment, and job programs to help those same suffering human beings become functional members of society. Until then, no matter how grandiose our taxpayer funded arenas are, we will never be a Big League City.


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