http://www.cherokeephoenix.orgCherokee Nation citizen Christopher Wilson, who was formerly incarcerated, works at a service job on Feb. 21 through his job at Lawson Electric Inc. in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Wilson used the CN’s Career Services Coming Home Re-entry Program when he was released from prison in September to obtain a job and get back on his feet. COURTESY
Cherokee Nation citizen Christopher Wilson, who was formerly incarcerated, works at a service job on Feb. 21 through his job at Lawson Electric Inc. in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Wilson used the CN’s Career Services Coming Home Re-entry Program when he was released from prison in September to obtain a job and get back on his feet. COURTESY

CN helps formerly incarcerated citizens

BY LINDSEY BARK
Reporter
03/08/2017 08:15 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation’s Career Services Coming Home Re-entry Program assists formerly incarcerated CN citizens rehabilitate back into society by helping them find jobs and housing.

Daryl Legg, program director, said it began in 2013 and was funded through a donation of $20,000 to help homeless incarcerated Cherokees. Since then the Tribal Council has appropriated a budget to operate the program with $131,000 per year.

“The first two years that we implemented the program, we had…45 (Cherokees) the first year and 55 the second year. Then last year we got 165 (Cherokees),” Legg said.

Those who qualify must be a CN citizen; have served time in prison, not including county jail; provide release documents from the Department of Corrections; and sign up for the program within the first three months of his or her release.

The program helps individuals with reinstating driver’s licenses, provides a $250 stipend to buy professional or work clothing, pays the first month’s rent on housing and provides furniture and other needed items for a home.

Legg said program officials keep in contact with the DOC and prison facilities to provide information so that prisoners know the program is available upon their releases.

“We do try to immediately get them on the (CN) Day Training program so they can start earning $50 a day. Other than that we do vocational training. We also tie into the economic development funds for OJT (On the Job Training) so that we can help them get a job,” Legg said.

Before their releases, most individuals are already receiving “quality apprenticeship-style training” in a trade that they can utilize when released. Legg said prisoners are also getting their GEDs, cognitive behavioral therapy and other help to begin their journey back into society.

He said the CN program boasts a recidivism or re-offend rate of only 10 percent.

Legg said with this type of re-entry program, the CN and other Oklahoma tribes are able to reduce the recidivism rate “beyond the national level,” with the national average being 67 percent and the state average at 27 percent.

Legg said the program’s focus is getting incarcerated citizens jobs that will help motivate them, help them be responsible and take care of their families.

CN citizen Christopher Wilson, who was released from prison in September, used the program and obtained a job a week and a half after his release.

Wilson said while in prison, he acquired his unlimited journeyman’s license in the electrical trade.

“I knew that that was going to help me when I got out with a good-paying job. So I just worked hard and focused on my future for when I got out and that was probably that best thing that I could do while I was in (prison),” Wilson said.

He said the program helped him reinstate his driver’s license, pay his first month’s rent, buy him regular and work clothing and pay $500 to get him the tools he needed.

Wilson now works for Lawson Electric Inc. in Tulsa. He started with a pay rate of $19 per hour and has since earned his first raise.

“It was a big morale boost to know that I had people supporting me and helping me. They saw that I was willing to try and work hard,” he said. “My faith in God, I believe God put these people in my path to help me, and it’s all worked out great.”

Wilson said he encourages anyone who is eligible to take advantage of the program.

“I encourage anyone getting out that’s serious about making it to take advantage of this program and really use it to get their life straight. It’s a great hand up when you first get out,” Wilson said.

For more information, call 918-207-3832.
About the Author
Lindsey Bark grew up and resides in the Tagg Flats community in Delaware County. She graduated from Northeastern State University in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in mass communication, emphasizing in journalism. She started working for the Cherokee Phoenix in 2016.
 
Working for the Cherokee Phoenix, Lindsey hopes to gain as much knowledge as she can about Cherokee culture and people. She is a full-blood Cherokee and a citizen of the United Keetoowah Band.
 
Her favorite activities are playing stickball and pitching horseshoes. She is a member of the Nighthawks Stickball team in Tahlequah and enjoys performing stickball demonstrations in various communities. She is also a member of the Oklahoma Horseshoe Pitchers Association and competes in sanctioned tournaments throughout the state.
 
Previously a member of the Native American Journalists Association, she has won three NAJA awards and hopes to continue as a member with the Cherokee Phoenix.
lindsey-bark@cherokee.org • 918-772-4223
Lindsey Bark grew up and resides in the Tagg Flats community in Delaware County. She graduated from Northeastern State University in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in mass communication, emphasizing in journalism. She started working for the Cherokee Phoenix in 2016. Working for the Cherokee Phoenix, Lindsey hopes to gain as much knowledge as she can about Cherokee culture and people. She is a full-blood Cherokee and a citizen of the United Keetoowah Band. Her favorite activities are playing stickball and pitching horseshoes. She is a member of the Nighthawks Stickball team in Tahlequah and enjoys performing stickball demonstrations in various communities. She is also a member of the Oklahoma Horseshoe Pitchers Association and competes in sanctioned tournaments throughout the state. Previously a member of the Native American Journalists Association, she has won three NAJA awards and hopes to continue as a member with the Cherokee Phoenix.

Services

BY STAFF REPORTS
06/17/2018 10:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Phoenix is now taking names of elders and military veterans to provide free subscriptions of its monthly newspaper. In November, Cherokee Nation Businesses donated $10,000 to the Cherokee Phoenix’s Elder/Veteran Fund. The fund provides free subscriptions of its monthly newspaper to elders 65 and older and military veterans who are Cherokee Nation citizens. Subscription rates are $10 for one year. “The Elder/Veteran Fund was put into place to provide free subscriptions to our Cherokee elders and veterans,” Executive Editor Brandon Scott said. “Some of our elders and veterans are on a very limited budget, and other items have a priority over buying a newspaper subscription. The donations we receive have a real world impact on our elders and veterans, so every dollar donated to the Elder Fund is significant.” Using the Elder/Veteran Fund, elders who are 65 and older as well as veterans can apply to receive a free one-year subscription by visiting, calling or writing the Cherokee Phoenix office and requesting a subscription. The Cherokee Phoenix office is located in the Annex Building on the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex. The postal address is Cherokee Phoenix, P.O. Box 948, Tahlequah, OK 74465. To call about the fund, call 918-207-4975 or 918-453-5269 or email justin-smith@cherokee.org or joy-rollice@cherokee.org. No income guidelines have been specified for the Cherokee Phoenix Elder/Veteran Fund, and free subscriptions will be given as long as funds last. Tax-deductible donations for the fund can also be sent to the Cherokee Phoenix by check or money order specifying the donation for the Cherokee Phoenix Elder/Veteran Fund. Cash is also accepted at the Cherokee Phoenix offices and local events where Cherokee Phoenix staff members are accepting Elder/Veteran Fund donations. The Cherokee Phoenix also has a free website, <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org" target="_blank">www.cherokeephoenix.org</a>, that posts news seven days a week about the Cherokee government, people, history and events of interest. The monthly newspaper is also posted in PDF format to the website at the beginning of each month.
BY BRITTNEY BENNETT
Reporter – @cp_bbennett
06/15/2018 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH – The United Keetoowah Band is finalizing building plans and will soon move forward with its Elder Home Project, a pilot program to construct small, energy efficient homes for low-income elders ages 55 and older. “There was a need for housing for some of our elders who lived in substandard housing conditions, but we didn’t necessarily want to put them in a big two-bedroom, three-bedroom house because they really can’t afford to live in a house that big,” Charles Deason, UKB Housing Department development manager, said. “We got to researching different housing options and it was kind of born from there.” Deason said the project is expected to begin within “60 to 90 days” using approved contractors via a bidding process. He described the homes as “cottages” on permanent foundations ranging from 500 to 1,000 square feet. “It will have insurance ratings, and it will be built to the national building codes, and it will be a standard home. They’ll be fully equipped when we give you the keys, minus the furniture. It will have all the appliances and all the amenities of a regular home. It’ll just be a small home. We’re looking to do two to three this year and next year, depending on the amount of applications and the participation that we have. We hope to maybe increase that.” The homes are intended for one to two occupants. “That’s like a single elder who may have a caregiver that stays with them part-time or an elder that has just been displaced and maybe having to live with family members and they just kind of want to be independent, but still be close to their families,” Deason said. Applicants must own land in the UKB’s operating area and will be selected based on a point system that relies on various factors to determine eligibility and need. “The basic requirements are that you have to be Native American. Another that you have to have is a minimum income amount with HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development),” Deason said. “We also give preference to exclusive Keetoowahs. We give preference to elders. The program is for 55 and up, but we give more points to those that are 62 and older. We also give preference to those that are full blood. We take all of those things into consideration.” Deason said once all applications have been received, the UKB Housing Department would evaluate them before passing recommendations to the UKB Housing Committee. The homes will take approximately 45 days to complete once building starts, and the budget would vary depending on the occupant’s needs. “We’re looking at somewhere around $50,000 as the total,” he said. “It could be more. It could be a little less, but that’s our target budget for each home. Each one will have a different value depending on the amount of work that is having to be done. We’re wanting to do cost-effective and energy efficient housing.” The homes will be primarily funded through the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act. “It is NAHASDA monies. It’s set aside. We’ve also realigned some budget items, and we’re using acquisition funds in acquiring homes for these particular individuals. Funds are limited,” Deason said. Occupants will own their homes after making income-based monthly payments on a 10-year loan, though the UKB will cover any applicable taxes and insurance for the duration, Deason said. “We’re still kind of learning as we go,” he said. “We hope to have it streamlined one of these days, but right now we’re still trying to figure out all the bugs that might be in it. Our elders are what we’re all about. If it wasn’t for the elders, none of us would be here.” Applications are available at the UKB Housing Department and upon request by phone by calling 918-871-2773. The deadline for applications is July 2. Completed applications may be delivered or mailed to the UKB Housing Department at P.O. Box 746, Tahlequah, OK 74465.
BY ROGER GRAHAM
Multimedia Producer – @cp_rgraham
06/01/2018 02:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH – Cherokee Nation leaders on May 3 signed an agreement with the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma to create a mobile food bank at the tribe’s Veterans Center for qualified veterans, their families and their widows on a quarterly basis. “We had a wonderful signing ceremony with (Principal) Chief (Bill John) Baker, signifying our partnership,” CFBEO Executive Director Eileen Bradshaw said. “The program focuses on veterans and their food security.” The CFBEO is a member of the national Feeding America network and delivers food to clients in eastern Oklahoma’s 24 counties through its network of 465 partner programs. However, the partnership didn’t get into full swing until May 29 when Veterans Center staff, CN administrators and employees, as well as federal officials, bagged and distributed approximately 10,000 pounds of food to qualified veterans. Cherokee veteran Allan Johnson said he’s grateful for the assistance. “I have to live within a limited budget from disability and, this program is going to help my quality of life.” Veterans Center Executive Director Barbara Foreman said she was pleased with the program’s first food distribution. “The event was a wonderful success, which assisted 117 veteran families who received tickets. With the extra food after the event, we assisted about eight more veterans who heard about the program but were unaware of the process,” she said. “The feedback was good, and we know the veterans appreciated our efforts very much. We will continue with our efforts to assist our veterans with this food outreach program every 90 days.” The next mobile food pantry is scheduled for August. Foreman said the Veterans Center compares schedules with the food bank and that it would try to schedule distributions every 90 days. She said the center would contact veterans and widows of veterans regarding the next distribution. Foreman also said the center doesn’t receive a list of food items and that she doesn’t know what food they will be distributing until they take it off the truck. “The food is based on the donations received at the food bank warehouse,” she said. She added that the Veterans Center receives 125 tickets for veterans and widows on a first-come, first-serve basis. Foreman said if a veteran or widow has five or more people in the household, they receive two tickets. For more information on the Veterans Center and mobile food bank, call 918-772-4166. For more information about the CFBEO, visit <a href="http://www.okfoodbank.org" target="_blank">okfoodbank.org</a> or call 918-585-2800.
BY STAFF REPORTS
05/31/2018 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Nation’s Family Assistance will again give out school clothing vouchers to eligible children through its Clothing Assistance Program this summer, and applications are available now. Family Assistance Manager Angela King said voucher applications will be taken via fax, mail, email or walk-in until June 29. Applications can be found at <a href="http://www.cherokee.org/Services/Human-Services/Family-Assistance" target="_blank">http://www.cherokee.org/Services/Human-Services/Family-Assistance</a> or picked up any of the Human Services field offices in Tahlequah, Catoosa, Stilwell, Locust Grove, Sallisaw and Jay. “The intent of this program is so the children can have at least one nice outfit to begin the school year with,” King said. King said the vouchers must be spent at Stage stores. According to its website, there are approximately 10 Stage locations within the CN. She said the vouchers must be spent on school clothing and not on accessories such as backpacks or fragrances. She added that the vouchers have no expiration dates and can be utilized during the state’s tax-free weekend of shopping on Aug. 4-6. To receive vouchers, students and families must meet eligibility requirements and income guidelines. Eligibility requirements and required documents are: • Student must be a CN citizen, • Student and family must live within the CN jurisdiction, • Student must be in grades kindgertarten-12 for the upcoming school year, • Must bring proof of school enrollment for each child, • Kindergarten students must be age 5 before Sept. 1, • Must bring a utility bill, not older than 30 days, that shows physical address or service address, • Custodial parent or legal guardian must show identification and complete application, • Guardians must bring letters of guardianship issued by a district court, and • Must bring verification of income for everyone in the household, and • Household must meet income guidelines. Income guidelines are the 2018 National Poverty Income Guidelines plus 25 percent. Also, state home schooled children are not eligible for the program. According to the CN website, the Clothing Voucher Program is funded through the Tribal Council and has been implemented through Human Services since 2006. The goal is to assist families with back to school expenses by providing financial assistance for school clothes for the children’s first day school. For more information, call 918-453-5266 or email <a href="mailto: angela-king@cherokee.org">angela-king@cherokee.org</a>. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2018/5/32309__brief_180531_ClothingAidApp.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a>the clothing aid application. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2018/5/32309__brief_180531_ClothingAidFAQ.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a>the clothing aid FAQ. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2018/5/32309__brief_180531_ClothingAidInfo.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a>the clothing aid information document.
BY KENLEA HENSON
Reporter
05/30/2018 08:15 AM
LYONS SWITCH – The community’s Highway 100 West Fire Department was among the 131 Oklahoma volunteer fire departments to receive funds from the Cherokee Nation during the tribe’s annual Volunteer Firefighter Ceremony at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Tulsa. Each department was presented with a $3,500 check for equipment, fuel and other necessities. Funds provided by the CN totaled $458,500 and is part of the tribe’s annual budget. CN citizen and Hwy. 100 WFD Chief Bobby Gann said the department has received a check every year since the CN has been providing the aid. “It goes a long way and it helps with a lot of stuff like parts, fuel, our electric bill and water bill. It helps with getting needed equipment if we need things like air tanks or new leaf blowers, which helped us get two new leaf blowers with last year’s money,” Gann said. He said the department usually uses the money as its needed, but this year he hopes to use part of the money to build an addition to house all of the department’s trucks and equipment in one place. With the addition, he said the department could house other equipment, which is stored in the Rocky Mountain community about 3 miles away, and would make it more efficient for firefighters when they are called. “Ninety percent of our calls are in this area, so we need to be able to use all of our equipment quickly,” he said. Hwy 100 West VFD has served this Adair County community and a 110-mile radius for about 10 years. Gann said the CN helped get a grant for the volunteer firefighters to build the current fire station building. The unit’s fire stations contain two fire engines, two brush trucks, two pumpers and two tankers. He said the department mostly receives emergency medical services and grass fire calls, but usually average four to five house fire calls a year. However, the department has already received five house fire calls since January, he said. Gann also said the department is made up of 18 trained firefighters who receive training twice a year from nearby vocational technology staff or other trained professionals. The department also has four volunteers who are certified emergency medical responders, or EMRs, and one who is a certified emergency medical technician, or EMT, which is much needed because the closest ambulance center is 10 miles away. “We are working on getting everybody certified in EMR,” Gann said. He said Hwy. 100 West VFD only receives funding through the CN’s annual donation and county tax revenues, so receiving the tribal dollars means “a lot” to him and his department. “Like I said, it goes a long way us. During fire season our water bill will sometimes be over $600, so it’s good to have that there when we need it,” he said.
BY BRITTNEY BENNETT
Reporter – @cp_bbennett
05/24/2018 08:30 AM
STILWELL – The United Keetoowah Band Housing Department and tribal officials met with UKB citizens in the Flint and Goingsnake districts to distribute housing aid information and assessment surveys on May 11 at the Fairfield Community Building. “In the past, some things kept people from receiving services or they’ve gotten frustrated with the application process and gathering documents,” UKB Chief Joe Bunch said. “It’s really not that hard but sometimes you need guidance. We’ve got a great staff out there working.” The meeting followed the formation of a UKB Housing Committee, Councilor Frankie Still said. “When I first got in office there was no such thing as a housing committee, so a group of us got together to try and see what we could do to help,” he said. “We’ve come a long ways in about a year and four months to detangle all this mess. This information wasn’t getting out, it wasn’t being brought out.” Various assistance programs were discussed, including mortgage and rental, college student rental, storm shelter and rehabilitation and emergency repairs. According to distributed information, mortgage assistance for eligible citizens who are first-time homeowners is available for up to $10,000, while rental assistance is available for up to one month of rent or up to $750 towards deposit fees for new renters. Eligible full-time college students can also receive up to $1,200 per semester for housing costs. For eligible citizens who own homes but need assistance, the UKB offers a rehabilitation program that provides up to $35,000 and an emergency repairs program that grants up to $5,000. Weather-related assistance is also available. UKB is offering eligible citizens storm shelter assistance up to $2,500, as well as air conditioners and help with cooling bills through the Oklahoma Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. UKB Housing Director Nancy McCause said citizens should stop by her office for applications even if they’ve been previously denied help. “They need to come to our office and apply. It could be that they didn’t fit into one program, but we can help them decide which way they need to go.” McCause also said other programs the tribe will pursue in the upcoming year include Section 184 Indian Home Loan Guarantees through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, as well as tiny homes for elders. “We’re really excited about the tiny homes for elders,” she said. “It kind of evolved over our housing meetings because names kept coming up of elders that were just living in travel trailers and things like that. So the more we looked into this, the more excited we got. We’ve already got about three applicants for it. We’re getting ready to pick a design and go with it. We’re very close.” Sean Nordwall, UKB Tribal Operations and Federal Programs executive director, said the UKB is also looking at buying land to build duplexes for tribal housing and offering lease-to-own options. “With the lease-to-own, you would work through the tribe, so people with not-so-spectacular credit should be able to make it work,” he said. “You just have to come by and it would be a case-by-case basis. We’re trying to make it as easy as possible for our members to get into a good place to live. We really want to help the people and do what we can to get the services out because we’re very much underserved.” In addition to discussing current and upcoming housing projects, officials distributed housing assessment surveys to citizens to better understand what services are most needed. “We will compare it with what we already have, and we’ll put it back into the next year’s budget and see which way we can go with it,” Bunch said. “Feel free to write in what you think your community needs.” UKB officials said more meetings are planned to get the surveys to citizens, but for those who can’t attend, surveys can be picked up and returned to the UKB Federal Programs Building. Data will be collected until June 29. For more information, call 918-871-2773 or visit the UKB Housing Department at 18263 W. Keetoowah Circle in Tahlequah.