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Safe Haven is a project long needed in our community

There's a project coming up that is a long time overdue in this area. It's a shelter and safe haven for homeless veterans that will go where the old Armed Services YMCA is now, right across from the public library.

The first community event to bring awareness, raise money and collect donations for the Safe Haven will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 27 in the Salas parking lot at Southwest 2nd Street and Lee Boulevard.

What started out as an idea a few years ago looks like it will finally happen sometime early next year. The Safe Haven will be a type of "one-stop shop" to serve people in need, with an emphasis on homeless veterans. The last official count here found 28 veterans either living on the streets or in shelters or what are called "couch homeless."

Lawton's Safe Haven will not only have beds for veterans, there will also be support services and case management available to anyone (not just veterans) who needs it.

Additionally, Calvary Baptist Church, which currently offers a free dental clinic once a month for extractions, is moving into that building with the hope and goal of more frequent services with expanded services such as cleanings and other dental needs.

You'd be surprised how critical dental care is to a person's quality of life. The director of a comparable facility in Elk City told me that often people will come in malnourished because their teeth hurt so much they can't eat. Poor dental hygiene has been linked to heart disease and a long list of other maladies, including Alzheimer's.

What the dental clinic needs now and in the future is a good supply of dentists to volunteer on a regular basis, new or used dental equipment, and that gift that keeps on giving ... money.

What the Safe Haven needs is roughly the same thing, starting with money. Specifically, corporate sponsors and private donors who are willing to put their name in as supporters to help furnish and equip the facility.

Each entity  the dental clinic and Safe Haven  has come up with a basic wish list that has equipment and furnishings that will be needed to help ensure their success. That list can be found at www.swcoc.org, which is Lawton's Continuum of Care's site.

The Safe Haven needs 32 beds, frames, bedding, etc., along with desks, tables, chairs and kitchen equipment. This is only the short list. The dental clinic has also specified some of the equipment it will need.

What I envision for that place would be a very interactive program manager, who will regularly schedule events such as fan and water giveaways in the summer, coordinate a day a week for street people to come in, shower and wash their clothes, raise funds and support both dental and case management efforts, bring outside resources in for care and training, and so on.

And yes, I want the job, but my plate has suddenly gotten very full. Although one thing I've learned is that we never really know for sure where life will take us.

Make that two things. The other thing I've learned is that as a community, we can change our world. We are here to serve, and needs are great.

Pick your cause. This one's mine, or at least one of them. I see too many people downtown walking down the street with nowhere to go. My prayer is to help them find some help and comfort.

Please get involved in the April 27 event. Contact Lawton Support Services at 353-7392 or email me at juliasalas1yahoo.com.

The Lawton Constitution

102 SW 3rd, Lawton, OK 73501
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