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OKC panhandling ordinance part of a disturbing trend of criminalizing poverty

by | September 29th, 2015 | Posted in Criminal Justice, Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (6)

[Update: During public comments on the ordinance, a large majority of those speaking said that passing it would be a mistake. A final vote is still scheduled for Oct. 13.]

Today the Oklahoma City Council is holding a public hearing on an amendment to the city’s panhandling ordinance that would make it illegal to stand or walk in the median for the purpose of panhandling or collecting charitable contributions. A final hearing on the amendment is set for Tuesday, October 13th. Councilwoman Meg Salyer, who introduced the amendment, told The Oklahoman that she receives complaints “in the multiples every day” about panhandlers. The amendment would make panhandling from the median a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500.

The amendment received pushback from other councilors when it was introduced last Tuesday. Councilman Ed Shadid said panhandling is evidence that the city has failed to invest in services to help those who find themselves out on the street. Councilman Pete White said in the meeting, “The other thing I’m concerned about is the number of social service agencies I heard from, not one of them said this is a good idea… All across the map they all said this is not a good idea.”

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New Census data shows Oklahoma continues to trail nation in fighting poverty and covering uninsured

by | September 17th, 2015 | Posted in Healthcare, Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (1)

Photo by Dorothea Lange / CC BY-SA 2.0

Photo by Dorothea Lange / CC BY-SA 2.0

New Census data shows Oklahoma made little progress in reducing the percentage of families living in poverty in 2014. In that year, almost one out of six Oklahomans (16.6 percent) were making less than the poverty line of $24,000 a year for a family of four. Changes in Oklahoma’s poverty rate were statistically insignificant compared to 2013. Poverty rates for the United States as a whole did show a small but significant decrease, dropping from 15.8 percent to 15.5 percent.

Last year was another in which Oklahoma consistently saw lower unemployment rates than the nation as a whole, but still experienced higher poverty rates. It’s clear that Oklahomans aren’t rising out of poverty, not because they aren’t working hard, but because too many jobs don’t pay a living wage.

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Community Eligibility Provision can help make Oklahoma schools hunger-free

by | August 25th, 2015 | Posted in Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (0)

Despite Oklahoma’s prosperity, too many children go without access to regular, healthy food. State food banks continue to report giving away record amounts of food, and the state’s SNAP enrollment has not significantly declined since spiking in 2010. More than 400,000 Oklahoma students receive free or reduced-cost lunches, and many of them get breakfast at school as well. This firmly establishes the important role schools play in fighting hunger. A new school meals program may better-equip some schools to fight hunger and keep down costs.

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New savings initiatives will boost financial security for Oklahoma’s Native Americans

ONAC_Circle_logoRecently, the Oklahoma Native Assets Coalition (ONAC) announced a pair of exciting new initiatives for Native American families in Oklahoma. Supported by a $200,000 grant from the Michigan-based W.K. Kellogg Foundation, both initiatives aim to support savings as a way to promote family financial security and opportunity.

For families and individuals, savings are a basic cornerstone of financial well-being. Having savings to draw upon cushions the impact of temporary financial disruptions like the loss of a job or a medical emergency, serving as a private safety net that can avert a crisis and reduce reliance on public programs.

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More hands needed to tackle senior hunger (Guest post: Laura Goldring)

by | July 29th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (0)

Laura Goldring is CEO and Founder at MaddieLuke, LTD based in Duncan, OK.  An earlier version of this article was posted to LinkedIn.

If you have not seen the 2013 documentary, “A Place At The Table,” I strongly encourage you to set aside 90 minutes and prepare yourself for the wide range of thoughts and emotions this film will provoke. Regardless of your political position, socially-based opinions, or long-held stereotypes of how poverty functions, I am confident you will be challenged in your thinking at least once and will find yourself pondering how you can begin to make a difference in your own little corner of the world.

My little corner of the world is Southwest Oklahoma. My husband and I own a small for-profit company that facilitates service delivery for the supportive services aspect of the Older Americans Act. The Older Americans Act is one of a very few programs whose service delivery is not based on an individual meeting the low-income threshold. Specifically, we provide outreach, health promotion, help with chores, home repair, caregiver respite, caregiver support groups, grandparent respite, and grandparent support groups services to individuals aged 60+ and caregivers.

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Please don’t feed the stereotypes

by | July 22nd, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Economy, Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (0)

This is an expanded and revised version of an op-ed that ran in The Oklahoman.

The Oklahoma Republican Party recently ignited a local and national firestorm with a Facebook post pointing out a so-called irony of signs in national parks warning that feeding animals can create dependence on handouts at a time when a growing number of Americans are receiving federal food stamp benefits.

The post, which was later deleted, displayed a callous and mistaken understanding of the food stamp program and the people it serves. The program, now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, is among the most effective ways that the United States helps hard-pressed families to stay afloat and ensure they can afford enough to eat.

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No place to go: Oklahomans with felony convictions face barriers to affordable housing

This report was funded by a grant from the Anne and Henry Zarrow Foundation.

[See the full issue brief]

homeless manOklahoma’s tough-on-crime criminal justice ethos results in one of the highest per-capita incarceration rates in the US. Thousands of these incarcerated Oklahomans are released to the streets every year, but when they are released, many ex-offenders have nowhere to live.

A new issue brief from Oklahoma Policy Institute discusses barriers to affordable housing for Oklahomans with felony convictions; details what those barriers mean for ex-felons and their families; and shares models used by other states and localities to effectively use housing to decrease homelessness and recidivism and strengthen families.

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Upcoming Event: Oklahoma Watch forum on low-income neighborhoods

Nonprofit news organization Oklahoma Watch and the University of Oklahoma’s Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication will host a public forum about challenges in low-income neighborhoods in south Oklahoma City. The event is Thursday, April 16, 6-7 p.m. at the Capitol Hill United Methodist Church gymnasium, 123 S.W. 25th St., Oklahoma City.

The forum will focus on the needs and concerns of south Oklahoma City communities and is tied to a recently released mobile-video news project, “Talk With Us: Poverty in Oklahoma City Neighborhoods.”

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Who Pays More? A Town Hall Forum on Predatory Lending in Oklahoma

Oklahoma Assets Network (OAN) is pleased to invite you to save the date for a town hall forum on predatory lending. This event is free and open to the public. The forum will feature remarks from Dr. Haydar Kurban, the author of new research on payday lending patterns in the state, ‘The Demographics of Payday Lending in Oklahoma.‘ Dr. Kurban is an Associate Professor of Economics at Howard University whose previous research has been published in the National Tax Journal and Economic Development Quarterly.


Wednesday April 15th, 2015
6:30pm Heavy hors d’oeuvres
7:00-8:30pm Remarks & discussion

OU Faculty House
601 Northeast 14th Street
Oklahoma City, OK 73104

Please click here to RSVP

Please join Dr. Kurban and our local panel of experts for a discussion about the disproportionate share of predatory lenders located among particular communities and demographics, including:

  • Military families
  • Older Oklahomans
  • Lower income earners
  • Single parent households
  • Young adults
  • Communities of color




Following Dr. Kurban’s remarks, we will take questions and comments from the audience, and host a discussion featuring local experts and practitioners: 

  • [Moderator] Damario Solomon-Simmons, Legislative Liaison with Oklahoma Policy Institute 
  • Kate Richey, Coordinator for Oklahoma Assets Network
  • Cristy Cash, Vice President of Central Oklahoma Consumer Credit Counseling 
  • Tina Pollard, Consumer Lending Manager with Citizen Potawatomi Community Development Corporation


This new school meals program helps high-poverty kids and schools

by | March 11th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Education, Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (0)
Photo by Bread for the World used under a Creative Commons license

Photo by Bread for the World used under a Creative Commons license

Last spring, we reported on a powerful new tool to fight hunger in high-poverty schools. Community Eligibility, part of 2010’s Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, allows certain high-poverty schools, groups of schools, or school districts to offer breakfast and lunch to all students free of charge. Recently, we with talked the Nutrition Services Directors at Oklahoma City Public Schools (OKCPS) and Shawnee Public Schools (SPS), to hear about their first year of community eligibility.

Oklahoma City Public Schools adopted community eligibility in 51 of 79 of it schools, which means that 26,000 of 44,000 students in the district receive breakfast and lunch every day, free of charge. Shawnee Public Schools has adopted community eligibility in 5 of 7 schools. In both districts, the vast majority of affected students are in elementary school, when nutrition experts say that healthy meals are crucial to physical and neurological development.

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