Oklahoma City's City Council met Feb. 28, 2023, at 8:30 a.m. in the City Council Chambers, 200  N. Walker Ave., in Oklahoma City (OKC). The Council approved a new youth curfew for Bricktown, effective immediately.

Previously, Bricktown's curfew, for unaccompanied juveniles, began at 11 p.m. and ended at 6 a.m. the next morning. But effective immediately, the curfew begins at 9 p.m. and ends at 6 a.m. the next morning. This change is effective only for the Bricktown Entertainment Area.

During the meeting, a public hearing was held regarding amending municipal code related to the Bricktown Entertainment Area's curfew for unsupervised juveniles under age 18.

Several Bricktown business owners and managers spoke. They agreed on changing the curfew because middle school age youth gravitate to their areas, and are not doing any business or attending movies or events. They tend to gather in large groups, which leads to fights.

The presence of unaccompanied minors does nothing for revenues, tax dollars or business. It creates an unsafe environment for teens. And violence is already taking place due to these issues.

Even the most kid-friendly and family-friendly Bricktown venues supported changing the curfew. Bricktown businesses pointed out that police officers are focused on these groups, rather than focusing on issues of the night life crowd which pose their own set of problems.

City Council members pointed out that changing the curfew is the first step, in a multi-pronged plan, already in motion to curb problems in Bricktown.

Additionally, the Council approved a one-year contract with Mental Health Association Oklahoma (MHAOK). The contract will support a pilot Homeless Street Outreach Program. The contract with  MHAOK is not to exceed $572,000.

The program implements initiatives recommended in the Strategies to Address Homelessness report created by the Mayor's Task Force on Homelessness, Law Enforcement Policy Task Force and Community Policing Working group, with all identifying need for enhanced outreach and coordinated response to mental health calls.

"This program advances the winnable fight to end homelessness," CEO of MHAOK Terri White said. "It expands our ability to connect with individuals who are experiencing homelessness. We work closely with the OKC Police and Fire Departments."

 White said homelessness can be ended through outreach, and it is important to look at the journey from homelessness to housing to self-sustainability. She said MHAOK tracks these markers through data.

MHAOK plans to hire members of two street outreach and crisis response teams for the program. Each team will include a licensed clinician and two case managers. They will connect those who are experiencing homelessness with community resources for housing, mental health, and physical health, as well as recovery programs, employment assistance, and more.

One of MHAOK's closest partners is currently the HOT Team - Homeless Outreach Team - through the OKC Police Department. The newly created teams will coordinate with public safety departments in order to provide non-police responses to calls for assistance because homelessness is not always a police issue.

It is more productive for a case worker to respond, rather than a uniformed officer. The results are better in terms of de-escalating mental health crises situations, and it also frees up time for officers to pursue other issues.

In 2022, 1,339 people experienced homelessness in OKC.

The council also looked at the economic impact of 21.4 million visitors to OKC during 2021, with $2.3 billion in direct visitor spending, and $3.8 billion total economic impact. Tourism generated $311 million in state and local taxes.

In the next 100 days, OKC will host a large number of events, bringing in even more visitors and revenue. Current initiatives will make it easy for visitors to access public transportation in OKC, with visitors wearing event lanyards around their necks. As well, OKC now has a digital city guide for visitors.

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.