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“Here we are ten years later and I am back at Tulsa Housing Authority; this time I’m not a resident. I’ve come full circle. I sit in my office at Comanche Park and look out the window and see my old apartment. I’m constantly reminded of where I’ve come from.”
I think a lot of people have a misconception about those who live in income-based housing. I have heard references of “those people” being lazy, criminals, crazy, addicts and much worse. I am one of “those people ” but I am none of those things.
I was raised to believe that if you worked hard enough, you can do anything; the key to success is hard work. I came from working people. Many of my relatives never finished high school, but they worked. They worked so much they didn’t have time for much else.
As a child I knew that I didn’t want that kind of life. I wanted an education and a career that left me time to relax and enjoy life. When I started high school, I met with my guidance counselor to find out what courses I needed to take to graduate early and go to college. For some reason, I trusted that he would be the key to my success, that he would bring magical insight that would put me on the right path to success. I remember sitting in his office and hearing him say, “I know your family. You’re only good for making burgers or making babies. I’m not going to waste my time. You’re not college material.”
It was definitely a life changing moment, but not the kind I had hoped for. I had been an honor roll student most of my life. I got good grades without even trying. I helped my older sister with her homework all the time. After that visit, though, I gave up. Why bother trying so hard if I was just going to end up like everyone else? At a time when I really needed someone to believe in me, my dreams were crushed.
I gave up. I graduated from high school but just barely met the minimum requirements. Then I went to work at McDonald’s just like my guidance counselor had suggested. Over the years, I moved from job to job trying to survive. I sometimes worked two or three jobs at a time and rarely had time for myself. I was bringing in a lot of money, though, so I thought I was set for life.
All that hard work did set me up for life – a life of disability. When you work so much, your body gets tired and can’t fully recover from the strain of a long work day. It starts to break down. I got carpal tunnel syndrome and then I had a severe back injury. Between these two injuries, I had very few options for employment.
I had money saved but it only went so far. I ended up losing everything that I had worked so hard for. I tried to apply for government assistance and the case worker informed me that there were no programs for people like me. He said he could help me if my situation changed; I didn’t qualify for the existing programs.
I was passed from relative to relative for a while but you can only do that for so long. When I ran out of relatives to stay with, I started sleeping in my car. I would park in a secluded spot behind the church that I went to then wake up and move on before they got there the next morning.
They had no idea that I was homeless until the day I was sick and overslept.
One of the church families took me in. They were the first people to get me moving in the right direction. They gave me advice on how to go back to school and get the education that I had originally planned on achieving. They helped me get connected to resources that I needed. They helped me see my potential and pushed me to go back and revive those dreams of getting an education.
I started taking remedial classes at TCC; it was so embarrassing having high school students sitting next to me in class. I worked extra hard and took the maximum number of classes each semester just to catch up and stay on track with everyone else. I wanted to get finished as soon as possible and start changing my world. I wanted to help people like me who fell through the cracks of a broken system. To help them not only see their potential but to find the path to reach that potential.
I got an apartment with the Tulsa Housing Authority at Apache Manor. I went to the Tulsa Community College across the street.
I have always had a special place in my heart for north Tulsa. Our church adopted Monroe Middle school and that opened the door to begin working with residents in the community, many who lived at Comanche Park.
Eventually I was transferred from Apache Manor to Comanche Park. Several of the students I worked with at Monroe would now be my neighbors. I tried to share that hope for a better future with anyone who would receive it.
I remember one of the substitute teachers at Monroe saying that I was wasting my time. The goal for these kids is to just stay alive and stay out of jail. That comment inspired me to work even harder, to take my education further, to be able to make a change even if it’s just for one person. Who knows what change that one person might make?
I graduated from TCC with a GPA of 4.0 and a great start on a new future. I went on to Northeastern State University to get my degree in social work. I took a year off and worked for DHS.
I planned to continue my education at Oklahoma University to get my master’s degree in social work. My friend had more faith in my abilities than I did and encouraged me to apply to Columbia University in New York. I seriously doubted that any Ivy League school would even remotely consider someone like me. I applied just for fun. I was not only accepted but they offered me a financial aid package that was amazing!
Two days after I mailed in my nonrefundable deposit, I found out I was pregnant. I cried for days! I was not willing to sacrifice time with my child or my education. In my head I went right back to that counselor’s office and heard him say “only good for making burgers and making babies.” I was tempted to give up, but instead, I convinced myself that I could do this.
It was an advanced standing program and I could be finished in one year. It was one of the hardest years of my life! I almost gave up and listened to those who did not believe in me, but I kept going and I finished.
My dream became a reality. I finally had that education that I gave up on so many years ago.
I look back now and am thankful for the struggles. I can empathize with the people I work with in a way that others can’t; I’ve been there. My story may not be the same as theirs, but my story will impact their story.
I found out that I was smart and had potential beyond burgers and babies! I do make good burgers and my daughter was the most amazing baby but that’s not all that I was created to be. All those years wasted because I listened to the wrong voices. After I graduated from Columbia, I came back to Tulsa. Back to the city that captured my heart.
Here we are ten years later and I am back at Tulsa Housing Authority; this time I’m not a resident. I’ve come full circle. I sit in my office at Comanche Park and look out the window and see my old apartment. I’m constantly reminded of where I’ve come from.
I wonder how many other people are waiting for someone to help them see their potential, to revive those dreams that they’ve given up on. To help them find that path to their future that has become overgrown with weeds. To help them begin to clear the weeds and step by step move forward to a better tomorrow.
I look at the children and hope that they never have to give up on their dreams. I wonder which one is going to be our president one day. Who will be the one that finds the cure for a disease? Who will be the one that goes to space as an astronaut? I look at their parents and wonder the same thing. There is so much untapped potential in our community. You are never too old or too young to make a dream come true!
“I have always been an advocate for self-sufficiency and learning how to dismantle the bondage of generational poverty.”
In life I have always found a way to beat the odds. I realized I was a walking statistic born into poverty, and I have been trying to work my way out ever since. Being a teen mom, I often wondered why life had to be so hard, as if this life was destined for me simply because I had no one to teach me there is a different way of doing things. During my first year of service as an AmeriCorps member I was a family and youth leader where I taught classes on self-sufficiency; I saw the joy it would bring to those who were on the giving end of assistance. I have always been an advocate for self-sufficiency and learning how to dismantle the bondage of generational poverty. Self-sufficiency is not only a goal – it’s the ultimate way of life. My hope is that I am a step closer to achieving that goal. I want to thank the Tulsa Housing Authority and the Family Self-Sufficiency Program for this opportunity. It is my hope that with the funds I have escrowed I am a step closer to becoming a homeowner as well as a business owner.
“We love being able to provide a loving, safe home for these children, in the midst of life’s difficulties.”
My husband and I knew we wanted children and both felt that we would be good parents. Life, not always going according to our plans, has led us on a rather unexpected, unforeseen but very meaningful, worthwhile and rewarding journey – that of becoming foster parents.
We had been considering becoming foster parents; it was while attending a marriage conference in February 2018 that we both believe this decision was solidified for us.
During the opening session of the conference the speaker mentioned the different types of couples represented there: engaged, married with no children, married with children and those blending families. Then he made the statement that hit home for us; he said (and I paraphrase) and then there are some of you that for whatever reason have not had children of your own yet. Perhaps it’s because you are called to a higher purpose.
Right then, I will admit I thought the next statement out of his mouth would be that we are called to ministry in a foreign country. However, what he did say served as a topic of conversation for my husband and I throughout the rest of our “Weekend to Remember,” as it is called and rightfully so. The speaker continued with (and I paraphrase) perhaps you are called to give a loving home to children through foster care or adoption.
Wow. Neither of us had ever heard fostering or adoption being referred to as a “higher calling.” I cannot tell you exactly what he said next, but I can tell you that his statement was incredibly encouraging, uplifting and empowering for us.
Now, a year and two months since that conference, my husband and I have been fostering for eight months and are on our second placement. We have had minor challenges thus far, but overall, our children have been amazing, and we have learned so much from them. We have also worked with great birth parents and caseworkers and are so glad we decided to take this journey.
We love being able to provide a loving, safe home for these children, in the midst of life’s difficulties.
It is our desire and plan to foster to adopt, and though there are many challenges along the way and requirements to meet, we are very excited about the process.
Through mentoring and befriending the birth moms of the children I foster, I realize that some of our resident shave experienced the same difficult circumstances. My sensitivity to these kinds of situations is even more keen, and I want to even more so assist our residents with not only a compassionate heart and listening ear, but I also want to research and connect them with the best resources available to help them accomplish their most meaningful goals.
In helping residents in these situations achieve self-sufficiency I’m also helping them get that much closer to hopefully being reunified with their children that much sooner.
“My motivation in staying in the FSS program was knowing that I am investing in our future, no matter what path lay ahead.”
I am very grateful to have been a part of the Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program. I joined the program to have the grand opportunity of investing monetarily for my family’s future. Although I did not know what the future held for my family, I knew it was the right thing to do.
My motivation in staying in the FSS program was knowing that I am investing in our future, no matter what path lay ahead.
In the near future my hopes are to graduate with my master’s degree, further my education even more and own a house.
Ida’s Story: A Full Circle Moment
“This is the goal I would love to see happen more often. The outreach I received helped my life and my children’s.”
A former tenant I worked with who was moving from our Seminole Hills Apartments was due a refund. I can say I have never had such a grateful person as her since I have worked here at THA. She lived in a THA property for two years and she could finally supply an income for herself; she was so grateful for our help to get her independent life. This took me back 43 years.
I lived in Walla Walla, Washington and had a young child. Washington State and the Community College had a program that helped me; I was supplied with day care and food stamps while I went to college. Getting food stamps was embarrassing for me; my family raised us to not take from the government. It killed me to tell my dad that I was receiving food stamps. He told me, “If you are working to better yourself, don’t worry.”
Long story short, with the help I received at that time in my life I never had to use government services again. This is the goal I would love to see happen more often. The outreach I received helped my life and my children’s.