The Osage Nation cut the ribbon on 10 new senior housing units in Pawhuska on April 26 and is on schedule to have new units available in Fairfax, Hominy, and, eventually, Skiatook.
“This is a big step in the right direction,” said Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear. “We all agree that we need housing that’s affordable for our people.”
Standing Bear praised the many different departments and individuals who worked to make the five new duplexes a reality in just eight months and said that he expects to be cutting another ribbon at a new 20-unit senior housing addition in Fairfax in July, and to start construction on another 20-unit project in Hominy in a few months.
“We, the Osage people, are working together – not tearing each other down – for a bigger purpose, and that is to take care of each other,” the chief told assembled elders, employees, contractors and others. “If you’re following that, you’re following the Osage way.”
A shortage of safe, affordable housing has kept some Osages who live in other states from coming home, he added, and the new housing units will help them resettle comfortably and safely, with clean, secure housing and senior meals nearby at the Title VI program.
“This is just the start of it, and I’m honored to be a part of it,” Standing Bear said.
Sheridan Pickering, the Nation’s new housing director, echoed Standing Bear, noting that affordable housing for seniors is a huge concern all over the country, and that he was pleased that seniors, some of whom have been on a waiting list for years, finally have a place to move into. “We’re glad to be part of the commitment to our seniors and affordable housing,” he said.
Seventeen people are on the waiting list currently and 13 housing units are available in Pawhuska, including the 10 new ones, are vacant and soon to be assigned, Pickering said. Two of the people on the waiting list are from outside the state or country.
To be eligible to live in the federally-funded duplexes, seniors must be classified as low-income by HUD standards, Native American and at least 55 years old. Applicants are rated and given extra points for years beyond 55, and for being Osage, a veteran and/or disabled. Rent is based on income; tenants pay 15 percent of their monthly household income. All maintenance is provided by the Nation, even such mundane tasks are replacing lightbulbs.
Each of the 10 new two-bedroom units boasts a storm shelter capable of withstanding tornadoes, which prompted a moment of levity as those who attended the ribbon-cutting toured one of the units.
Chief Standing Bear stepped into the commodious above-ground shelter, looked out the steel door and commented: “I’ll come out when the election is over.”
For more information on Housing Department services, visit www.osagenation-nsn.gov/services/housing