Though many students might not ever encounter a homeless person in Oxford during their time here, Oxford does have a homeless population. Over the past three years, the Oxford Family Resource Center (OFRC) has provided assistance for over 100 homeless or transient people. Whether they are people who are kicked out of their homes or homeless people just passing through the city, the OFRC provides for every type of case.
“For the homeless population, we provide food, hotel stays and transportation costs,” OFRC Client Services Supervisor Missy Thompson said. “We provide food vouchers for groceries or money for restaurants. We also have working relationships with local hotels that provide discount rates for up to a total of four nights.”
The OFRC is a non-profit organization that operates through city money, small federal grants and larger non-profit organizations like the United Way, Salvation Army and Kiwanis club and public donations.
However, the OFRC is not a homeless shelter, only a resource center that also contains a community thrift store. There are no homeless shelters in Oxford, so the OFRC works with shelters in Hamilton and Middletown to provide homeless people with temporary stays.
“We try to get people to the right place,” Thompson said. “People sleep in their vehicles, parking lots and parks. Homeless people also try to go into whatever public places they can as soon as they open.”
Even though the homeless population is small, its impact on those affected is huge.
“For the 20 to 50 individuals that we do see, it is a huge issue. Sadly, it is what they must deal with everyday,” Thompson said.
According to Thompson, there have been 24 cases of homelessness thus far in 2011 in Oxford, compared to 35 total cases in 2010.
For the Oxford Police Department (OPD), homelessness in Oxford does not necessarily bring crime and is not a glaring issue.
“We do not usually run into homeless-related crime. If we do, it is with repeat offenders,” OPD Public Information Officer Sgt. Varley said.
However, one individual is known by OPD to be a repeat offender. On Sunday Oct. 9, a homeless man stole Busch Light beer from KDS Express with the intent of going to jail. He did this, according to police reports, to receive free medical attention in jail. Varley said the man was a repeat offender who suffers from psychological issues. This case, however, is not the norm but the exception for the OPD when they deal with homelessness in Oxford.
“We try to get them to a shelter, or if they need medical or psychiatric assistance we try to set them up with that,” Varley said.
Miami University students are surprised to hear that there is a homeless population at all.
“It is definitely unexpected that there are homeless people in such a small community,” Senior Emily Cameron said.
According to Thompson, the homeless population in Oxford almost doubled from 2007-2008. Cameron attributed this to the national recession of the economy.
“It’s definitely sad to hear that the recession has caused actual homelessness for anyone, let alone for citizens of Oxford,” Cameron said.
This week is Miami’s “Hunger + Homelessness Awareness Week.” For more information, visit www.units.muohio.edu/servicelearning/