Homeless count

Melanie Stewart-Goldman, a coordinator for U.S. Veterans Affairs, takes a survey on her iPad during a one-night count of Tulsa’s homeless population in January. JOEY JOHNSON/for the Tulsa World

Some 5,600 Tulsans — according to the latest count — were homeless at some point last year.

The figures were the result of the Community Service Council’s annual census of homeless people, released this month.

That number was down a little compared to 2018, which is good, but really in the same range of the past several years.

On average, homeless Tulsans needed 27 days to secure housing again, and 65% were homeless for the first time. The council’s “point in time” count for Jan. 24 showed 1,188 people were in various shelters or on the street; 288 of them were children.

We wonder if any of those people might have had trouble picking up their mail.

It’s not an idle curiosity because the Oklahoma Healthcare Authority is getting ready to deny Medicaid assistance to Oklahomans whose mail is returned to the agency undelivered. The authority says it has little choice in the matter, but it’s a heartless rule that fundamentally misunderstands the lives of many of the people served by Medicaid, including a lot of those 5,600 Tulsans.

In a recent electronic newsletter to supporters, Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy CEO Joe Dorman reported that 2% of a recent mailer by the authority to SoonerCare clients were returned undelivered and half of those people had no email address on file with the agency for follow-up.

An authority spokeswoman says the agency hasn’t actually started looking for whom to take off Medicaid because they can’t receive mail and won’t be ready to start kicking people off Medicaid until this fall, but Dorman’s numbers are still interesting. At any given time, the state has almost 800,000 people on Medicaid; 1 percent of that number is 8,000, most of whom are children, the vast majority of whom, we believe, are legitimate Medicaid recipients. Except that they can’t receive mail.

And in Oklahoma your ability to get health care can depend on exactly that.

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