Council approves $1.5 million to help end homelessness

Mar. 18—The City Council this week approved $1.5 million in federal funding to support a housing project to address homelessness, a decision local advocates say is a move in the right direction.

Community Development Block Grant Coordinator Lisa Krieg, said the money will be used to construct either one-bedroom apartments or smaller single-room occupancy units for chronically homeless people.

"Each tenant will have a one-year lease and they will pay 30% of their income towards rent," Krieg told The Transcript. "The Norman Housing Authority will provide project-based vouchers for each of the units."

The project is known as "permanent supportive housing," which offers case management, employment, health and mental health services to help chronically homeless people stay off the streets, according to

Krieg said she budgeted $100,000 of the allocated funds for supportive services for the program.

The project is subject to a 45-day review period prior to approval by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Krieg said.

While HUD's funding mechanism allows for the money to be used for other causes, including housing for those living with domestic violence, Krieg said the city had identified single-room occupancy units as a priority in a 2021 study by consultant Homebase.

The council hired Hombase, which produced the city's strategic plan to end homeless in Cleveland County.

The council voted 8-1 in favor, with Mayor Larry Heikkila voting against the proposal during Tuesday's regular council meeting.

Heikkila told The Transcript he voted against it because he wanted to explore other options.

"Single-room occupancies, if we are talking helping families and women escaping abuse, I'm 100% in for municipal support," he said. "SROs don't seem to be used in a manner that helps a homeless person get out of homelessness.

"What I'm trying to wrangle up is a performance-based housing program. "Work for a day cleaning up Norman and in return you get a decent place to stay and three meals plus a little spending money for incidentals, then I could vote for SROs."

Karen Canavan, executive director of the Norman Housing Authority, said there is no one-size-fits-all solution to end homelessness, and some will always require supportive housing.

"I think a lot of people are looking for that program that's going to equate absolute success for every single (homeless) person," Canavan said. "It won't happen ... but there are so many people out there that if you get them into that environment, and give them the support and services they need, they will succeed."

Food & Shelter Executive Director, April Doshier, said the program is needed in Norman. The nonprofit organization offers case management and services to assist the unhoused and operates an emergency housing addition at 201 Reed Ave.

Doshier said Food & Shelter's own permanent supportive housing units have been successful with other agency partners in the community "to help people leave chronic homelessness behind."

"This will help move our efforts forward and I am so proud of our city for taking this step," she told The Transcript. "I want to offer special congratulations to Lisa Krieg, who has championed this project for the city."

Mindy Wood covers City and County government news and notable lawsuits for The Transcript. Reach her at or 405-416-4420.