Sarah Grounds, Executive Director
The City Lights Foundation of Oklahoma
The City Lights Foundation of Oklahoma was officially formed in December of 2015, however, the passion for serving Tulsa’s most vulnerable and impoverished communities began in September of 2013. This grassroots effort, Night Light Tulsa, was led by a small team of friends that embraced a desire to form relationships and learn from those experiencing homelessness. Night Light continues to be a program under the City Lights Foundation.
One year ago, COVID-19 began to ravage our world. It changed the way our neighbors on the streets and in low-income communities were able to access resources and maintain stability. These already vulnerable communities felt the impact and continue to see the ripple of devastation. City Lights immediately began shifting our efforts to meet needs in new and creative ways.
We began a focused weekly street outreach and mobilized volunteers to fill the outdoor pantry located at our offices. Our largest effort came in the form of a low-barrier hotel. This program serves our most vulnerable homeless neighbors from street outreaches, shelters, and those discharged from local hospitals. It has become a safe haven for those suffering from medical issues and needing safety from other situations including domestic violence and danger related to LGBTQ violence. Over 215 people have been sheltered over the last 10 months. Eighty of those were COVID-positive and were given a safe, healthy space in which to isolate and heal. This protected our other homeless neighbors and decreased the spread of the virus.
Through City Lights Hotel, we have been able to build a safe, dignified, low-barrier community that is a bridge to housing. As neighbors settle, we are able to help establish identification, work to obtain other supports, help access appropriate medical care, provide three nutritious meals a day, and work towards permanent housing. Our guests move from surviving to thriving and are able to set their own goals and participate in their plan as well as volunteer and work beside us. We have placed 44 people into housing and reconnected others with family.
Unhoused numbers continue to increase and we battle a shortage of housing options and evictions. There has never been a more important time to work with landlords and step into advocating for and providing stable housing. City Lights is committed to that vision.
As City Lights continues to provide relief, restoration, and relationships to Tulsa’s homeless community, it also mobilizes hundreds of people from across Tulsa to step out of their comfort zone and connect human-to-human, heart-to-heart. We fully believe in the power of meaningful relationships to restore communities. This belief drives all that we do and welcomes ALL people to engage in building relationships, sharing resources, and offering opportunities.
We believe the best way to address homelessness is through community and the best way to build community is to empower people throughout Tulsa to become involved. If you don’t know someone who is or has experienced homelessness, reach out. We would be glad to introduce you to one of our friends.