Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear’s housing reorganization is complete.
The Housing Department, what many Osages are used to calling it, is no more. All the services the former Housing Department offered are still being administered, just under three different offices within the Nation.
“Assistant Chief [Raymond Red Corn] and I have been trying to get people who provide similar functions to work together,” Standing Bear said. “How do things look from the point of view of the user? That would be the client in need of assistance. How does it look to them? This is so they won’t have to go to five different buildings.”
The three different departments that have inherited the functions of the former Housing Department are: Financial Assistance, Tribal Works and Tribal Development and Land Acquisition (TDLA).
All-new applications, information and description of services can be found on each department’s web page on the Osage Nation website, according to Director of Operations Casey Johnson. Also, participants of existing programs that were formerly under the Housing Department will receive a letter in the mail describing the transfer and what the participant’s obligations are, if any.
Financial Assistance received LIHEAP, the Community Service Program (CSPG) and the Voucher Program, according to director Jodie Revard. She also received two employees, one of them being Andrea Kemble, former Housing Department director. Each service provides the following:
LIHEAP: provides energy assistance, cooling and heating assistance and some crisis assistance - pending availability of funds.
CSPG: helps with rental and mortgage assistance, groceries, basic and medical assistance, education, employment and crisis needs.
Voucher Program: rental, mortgage and utility assistance. Can help with crisis such as fire damage, destruction, natural cause, relocation, medical or physical emergencies, interruption or reduction of income.
Tribal Works received Senior Housing, NAHASDA and Osage Nation Housing Assistance Program (ONHAP), according to director Ed Zaun. He also received eight employees that include a Construction manager, Intake Specialist, Housing Inspector, Senior Housing Maintenance Supervisor and maintenance workers. Each service provides the following:
Senior Housing: provides maintenance and mowing to the senior housing complex in Pawhuska.
NAHASDA: home ownership assistance, home rehab.
ONHAP: home rehab.
Tribal Development and Land Acquisition
TDLA received the new construction functions that were administered under NAHASDA, such as Sky Lodge Estates, a rental complex construction in Skiatook, and a new PRT/Domestic Violence shelter to be built in Pawhuska, said director Bruce Cass. He received one employee, a records/management clerk for the two projects.
No one’s fault
Standing Bear said the reorganization wasn’t due to any one person’s fault, it was an inherited bureaucracy where various departments were performing the same functions, “duplication of services.”
As an example he named the three different fitness challenges that were being administered at the same time shortly after he took office in 2014. All three challenges were being judged having different monitoring and requirements. Similar duplication of services was happening all over the Nation, he said.
“We have a long way to go, but this is a start … you’ll see the same pattern, reoccurring with these reorgs, you’ll see it with language, culture, health, education, you’re going to look at it more from the point of view from the user,” Standing Bear said. “And less cost, a lot less cost actually.”
Revard said after bringing in the new programs and two seasoned employees, she was able to see the duplication of services and lower the administration costs.
“With the lateral transfers we’ve brought over knowledgeable employees that understand not only two programs, they understand six programs,” she said. “Sharing information about the clients … that’s actually helping reduce fraud, so putting them under one department you can look at it as an audit tool as well.”
Financial Assistance will be located in the new Welcome Center on the Osage campus in Pawhuska, Tribal Works and TDLA are both located on the campus in Pawhuska.
“I’m not going to say it was any one persons fault, it was the system that had been built up here through the years,” Standing Bear said. “And I’ve said it before, this place is a bush that needed serious pruning and we’re pruning it. So that’s what led to this.”