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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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Up Against The Wall, or how I pay the state to lock up my brother (Guest post: Camille Landry)

camille_landryCamille Landry is a writer, activist, and social justice advocate who lives in Oklahoma City.  This post is part of our “Neglected Oklahoma” series, which tells the stories of Oklahomans in situations where the basic necessities of life are hard to come by.  These are real people and their stories are true (names have been changed to protect privacy).

“My brother is doing 11 years in the state penitentiary.” There’s more bitterness than grief in Caryn Louis’s voice. “It’s not just losing somebody you love. The prison system punishes the entire family in lots of ways. Every little thing that my brother needs to make it through his sentence costs money and most of this money comes out of the pockets of inmates’ families and friends,” Ms. Louis said. “The state is punishing the families of the people it locks up.”

It is a not-so-well-kept secret that corporations that service prisons and corrections agencies profit by shifting considerable expenses to inmates’ families.  Inmates cannot pay these costs themselves. People who enter the criminal justice system are overwhelmingly poor. Two-thirds of the people detained in prisons report annual incomes under $12,000 prior to arrest. Prison jobs pay $14.45 per month. Portions of that sum are deducted for such things as child support payments and court costs.

jail-visit-1Research shows that family involvement helps combat recidivism and aids reintegration of offenders upon their release. It also results in calmer inmates — but the high costs associated with visits and phone calls puts them out of reach for many Inmates’ families. “My brother is a 3-hour drive away. I can only afford to see him a few times a year.” Most Oklahoma inmates come from Oklahoma and Tulsa counties and most of the correctional facilities are far away from those cities. “If you don’t have a good car and the money for a road trip, you just don’t get to visit,” she said.

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Sleeping dogs of the 2015 session

Photo by Chris Waits

Photo by Chris Waits

The 2015 session is now underway and it’s clear that this year, as always, will feature heated debates on a multitude of contentious issues, from proposals to expand school choice through vouchers and charter schools to efforts to rein in tax credits to hot-button social issues, such as guns, abortion, and same-sex marriage.

Less noted, but perhaps equally significant, is the low profile of several issues that have been highly contentious in recent years and that many expected to see back on the agenda in 2015. Here’s a review of four issues on which few, if any, bills have been filed and it now appears that minimal legislative action is likely this session.

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New opportunity scorecard shows Oklahomans slipping financially

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

pasted-image-small-17Conventional wisdom may seem to suggest that the economy has bounced back. Low unemployment and a stable housing market paint the picture of a prosperous Oklahoma. But if you look at the pocketbooks of the average American, the outlook is far from rosy. As CFED’s newly released 2015 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard reveals, the economy may be improving, but how individuals and families are faring in the economy is not.

The Scorecard data confirm what most families have known for a while—that even those squarely in the middle class are living on the brink of financial disaster. In fact, 49.1 percent of Oklahoma households are ‘liquid asset poor’, meaning they lack the resources necessary to subsist at the poverty level in the event that a job loss or medical emergency leaves them without their primary source of income. The high liquid asset poverty rate is perhaps unsurprising given the other patterns we see emerge from the Scorecard data. 

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A tale of two states (Neglected Oklahoma)

Camille Landry is a writer, activist, and social justice advocate who lives in Oklahoma City.  This post is part of our “Neglected Oklahoma” series, which tells the stories of Oklahomans in situations where the basic necessities of life are hard to come by.  These are real people and their stories are true (names have been changed to protect privacy).

Photo by Jessica Lucia.

Photo by Jessica Lucia.

It was the best of times. Two days before Christmas last year, Juan Carlos Jackson’s foster mom helped him pack his things, strapped him into his car seat and drove him to the offices of the Missouri Department of Social Services where his birth mom waited to take him home.

“It was one of the best days of my life,” foster mom and mentor Jackie Lorenzo said. “The Intensive Family Preservation Service (IFPS) in Missouri manages to help the majority of foster children to be successfully reunited with their families.” Jackie had no small part in this success story. In addition to fostering Juan, Jackie acted as a mentor to Jalinda, helping her through the process of treating her drug addiction, finding a job, passing her GED exam and generally being a supportive presence in the young mother’s life.

It was the worst of times. Kim Arnold could barely get her story out between sobs. She had just signed the documents that terminated her parental rights regarding her two youngest children.

It had been more than three years since OKDHS and the police had come to her door and took Denisha, then 8 months and Nathan, 2 years old, into the foster care system. Her teenaged daughter was sent to Ohio to live with her dad. DHS claims that the children were neglected due to Kim’s addiction to prescription drugs. Of note, Oklahoma ranks #1 nationally for the nonmedical use of pain relievers for all age categories. Oklahoma saw a 67.5 percent increase in the misuse of prescription medication between 2005 and 2010. 

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