The number of homeless people in Ardmore increased over the summer, but many of the newcomers are likely not here to stay.
The Grace Center, a day shelter that offers services to the homeless, saw an increase in the number of people using their services over the summer. Grace Center Executive Director Lesley Dvorak said she noticed the increase in April.  
“We’re seeing that number go down just a little bit but it’s definitely higher when you compare,” Dvorak said.
The number peaked in August. Over the course of the month, 61 people came to the center seeking transportation to another city.  
“That’s really abnormally high,” Dvorak said. “The majority of our folks are people coming in because they’ve landed in the community and they’re looking for housing or jobs. That’s double what we’d normally see.”  
Dvorak said she’s watched  the number of chronically homeless people in Ardmore, not just travelers, increase over the last five years.
“Some bigger cities near us have changed their laws in the last two or three years,” Dvorak said. “So you see more people migrating there. Being an interstate city, we see some of that.”
Dvorak said some of the travelers were people seeking rehab or mental health services or other resources that are not available in Ardmore. The majority came from Dallas, but some were headed to Oklahoma City or other larger cities.  
“Some of them have been on the road a while,” Dvorak said. “They’ve been hitchhiking and walking, but we have people who tell us they’ve been migrating this way for a month. Our goal is to individually get with them and see how we can bring that to an end, whether that’s helping them get to another city with more resources or seeing if there’s family somewhere or if there are underlying issues we need to address.”
Dvorak said many of the stranded travelers are chronically homeless, but not all of them.
“The federal definition of ‘homeless’ can mean a lot of things,” Dvorak said. “What we see a lot here is two or three different families sharing the same home that’s too small to house everyone living there. That meets the definition.”
Homelessness among teens, 14 to 18 year olds, is on the rise nationally as well as in Ardmore. Teenagers staying with friends or couch surfing also fit the definition.
“We do have folks that meet that definition and lots of organizations that are helping,” Dvorak said. “But it’s here, it’s real, and it’s important not to lose sight of that.”
The center tracks the number of people who use its showers, laundry services and other services. In August, 292 individuals used the center’s showers. Last August, that number was 225.
“We don’t duplicate,” Dvorak said. “If we have somebody that comes in every day to shower, we don’t count them twice.”
The center’s numbers typically increase during the hottest parts of summer and the coldest parts of winter.
“We always see a spike then, but I think it’s been just a bit more of a spike this summer than in the past,” Dvorak said.