Homeless shelter

Shown is Norman’s warming shelter, 325 E. Comanche St.

Last Sunday, we ran a story laying out the details of the lack of data sharing and transparency we’ve received from city homeless program coordinator Michelle Evans.

In the week since, the situation has gotten no better.

As reporter Christian Tabak discussed in his story last week, we are asking, very straightforwardly, for month-by-month occupancy numbers for Norman’s warming shelter. In the months Tabak and reporter Mindy Ragan Wood have worked with Evans to get these numbers, they’ve received not only a lack of answers, but contradictory data.

We began asking for these numbers months ago with the understanding that Norman’s $100,000 study on homelessness solutions, contracted out to San Francisco-based nonprofit Homebase, would wrap up at the end of this year. We wanted to understand the current need for and use of Norman’s existing overnight shelter.

This week, the road toward getting that public information has continued to be obstructed.

On Tuesday, the ad hoc committee on homelessness’ meeting was canceled without reason. Evans’ regular Friday meeting with Tabak was also canceled.

City Manager Darrel Pyle, who told Tabak on Friday, Oct. 8, that he would share the data with Tabak himself by the afternoon of Monday, Oct. 11, has not shared any new numbers this week despite multiple requests that he do so. We were hoping, with Pyle’s assistance, to finally be able to lay out the correct data for readers — so far, we haven’t shared any of the actual numbers we’ve received because they show a contradictory and convoluted narrative.

A lack of transparency is only compounded by further decisions to keep details from the public. At the end of the day, transparency, even if it reveals inconvenient facts, keeps everyone informed.

The Transcript is not the city’s enemy. Like all Norman residents, we want our city to develop a plan to help our homeless neighbors that is actually helpful, humanizing and meets the right issues with the correct solutions. We also want to understand what is currently working in our city, and what’s not.

Keeping key data from us to obstruct our understanding of resident use of the warming shelter helps no one. We are asking — first privately, now publicly — that the City of Norman share the correct, month-by-month shelter occupancy numbers we have been asking for since mid-summer.

If public servants are unwilling to share public information with the public, who are they doing their jobs for?

The Norman Transcript Editorial Board includes Publisher Mark Millsap, Editor Emma Keith and News Editor Max Bryan. For comments or questions, email editor@normantranscript.com.

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