Woodward, Okla. —
The new director of High Plains Outreach Center wants to see the homeless shelter increase the number and types of services it offers to clients.
"I think if we provide other services, in addition to just providing a roof over someone's head, then we'll be doing better work in the long run," Kristi Prophet said.
The reason, Prophet said, is that "social issues don't exist in a vacuum; they're multi-faceted, that's why their solutions must also be multi-faceted."
So when it comes to addressing the issue of homelessness, she said she believes the community needs to do what it can to offer services to address all the factors that contribute to homelessness.
"I think my degree in sociology gives me a unique perspective on homelessness," Prophet said.
She earned her bachelor's degree in sociology from Oklahoma State University in 2002.
As part of her studies, Prophet said she has learned that "there are 2 big issues that lead to homelessness: the overall increase of poverty and the lack of affordable housing."
"The second is especially true here. Woodward is a booming community, but there is a lack of housing for anyone, not just those who are struggling financially," she said.
And while clients of High Plains Outreach Center are usually able to find jobs, which is a condition of their being able to stay at the shelter, Prophet said they often have difficulty finding places to move to. There aren't many places available for rent to begin with, she said, and homes that are available often have higher rental costs because there is such a demand for housing.
So beyond just providing temporary shelter, Prophet said she would like to see High Plains Outreach Center be able to actually help put people back into homes.
"I think at one time we had funds to help clients with deposits for utilities and rent, I would like to bring that back," she said.
That's why one of her personal goals as the Outreach Center director is to do what she can to "get in more funds."
To accomplish that goal, Prophet is "looking forward to furthering my skills in fundraising and grant writing. I've taken some courses in grant writing in the past but haven't been able to put that knowledge into action until now."
Currently the homeless shelter depends heavily on monetary donations from the public to cover its operating expenses, which Prophet said are "close to $10,000 a month." That figure includes monthly utility and insurance payments for the shelter as well as payroll costs for her position, a case manager, and 2 house managers.
But if she is able to bring in additional money through grants or fundraisers, Prophet said the shelter will have funds to put toward housing deposit assistance and other programming.
In particular, Prophet said she would like to see the shelter offer training to its clients to help them "build their life skills and job skills."
For example, she said the center might offer interviewing workshops to help clients who are still looking for work to be more successful in their job hunts. She would also like to see the shelter offer budgeting workshops to help people learn how to establish and maintain a household budget, which she said is something everyone can use as living expenses always continue to rise.
Prophet said another big goal she has is "to expand our presence in social media and look into developing our own website as well."
"That's the way everything is going and I don't want High Plains to get left behind. I want to help get our message out to people," she said.
That message includes what a vital role the shelter plays in the community.
Before being hired as the new director 3 weeks ago, Prophet admitted that even she didn't really know how much the shelter was being used.
"But even in my short time here, we have had clients come in and clients go. That shows me how much this service is utilized and there is a need for it here in Woodward," she said.
Also by creating more of an online presence through websites such as Facebook, she said the organization may be able "to draw in younger people who are interested in helping out their community." Social media will also help the shelter "to publicize our events," such as open houses and fundraisers, she said.
The High Plains Board of Directors are very excited by all of Prophet's ideas and plans, according to Mike Ruby, vice chair of the board.
"We feel very positive about it and support her ideas and suggestions," Ruby said, noting "I think she's going to be awesome."
Beyond her educational background with her sociology degree, Ruby said the board was primarily excited about "her desire to work with non-profits and her enthusiasm."
"She wants to do this and that's very attractive as an organization when you have someone who is passionate about taking on a role like this," he said.
"I've always been passionate about helping others. That's what drew me to sociology and what's drawn me to non-profits," Prophet said. "Personally I don't like to see people struggle. I like to see people be the best they can be."