Tahlequah Daily Press


December 13, 2013

We may not see the poor, but they’re here

TAHLEQUAH — For residents of metropolitan areas, it may be easy to ignore the plight of the less fortunate. Harried commuters step over the ragged forms in the subway, stroll past the cup-rattlers on the sidewalks, and choose bus routes that won’t take them through the slums. Citizens become so inured to the “unwashed masses” that they don’t even notice them anymore.

Small-town residents tend to see themselves in a more positive, compassionate light. Local folks recognize some of their neighbors live in poverty, and that’s why they volunteer at soup kitchens, donate clothing to resale shops, and support worthy endeavors like Hope House, Help-In-Crisis and the O-Si-Yo Men’s Shelter.

But though we may think we’re doing what we can to help, we’re just as guilty as our urban-dwelling counterparts when it comes to turning a blind eye on extreme poverty and misfortune. Sometimes, the eye isn’t deliberately blind. Human beings simply tend to tune out sounds we find unpleasant, and look elsewhere when the sight is disturbing in the long term. If we look, if we listen, we might have to do more than flip a couple of mites in the offering plate at church to help “the poor” – a vague category of people whose existence we acknowledge, but whose personal stories we will never hear, nor do we want to.

That’s exactly the predicament in which a number of local residents found themselves recently, when they were forced to take a hard look at their “neighbors” living at the Stepping Stone rooming house. The sad truth is, if a 3-year-old boy had not died there, no one would think twice about this facility, though everyone understood it to be housing of last resort – a place most Tahlequah residents would, like their counterparts in the city, circumvent in their daily travels about town.

In the wake of the tragedy, Facebook caught fire with discussion. Initially, almost everyone was disturbed by the purportedly deplorable condition of the rooming house, which amassed code violations so numerous its closure couldn’t be avoided. Citizens were also shocked by the seemingly high rent – $450 to $500 a month – charged to residents. Even with all bills paid, this seemed steep; in Norman or Stillwater, many students pay $350 to $400 a month, all bills paid, for decent apartments with semi-private bathrooms. By comparison, Stepping Stone residents were getting skinned – or since most of these folks were on disability or some other type of public assistance, the taxpayers were getting skinned.

Then, talk turned to the residents themselves, with some citizens dismissing them as drug addicts or mere deadbeats. It did not occur to many folks that some  rooming house residents were down on their luck – and Stepping Stone, with no required deposit or credit rating, was their only alternative.

It was a rude awakening for many, but others – perhaps wishing to appear “in the know,” or perhaps having legitimate information – said they had “always known” about Stepping Stone. If that is the case, we have to wonder why people like this who are making the most noise now weren’t rattling cages earlier. It’s a fact that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and if no one complains, nothing is going to happen, best intentions notwithstanding.

Ignorance may have been bliss, but no more. Now that we know many of our neighbors need help, we’re obliged to give it. One way is to become involved with the Tahlequah Cares project, which the Press profiled in its Thursday edition. The group, led by Denise LaGrand and Toni Bailey, has a Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/610939405630374/ ?ref=br_tf.

Of course, the city’s more traditional and long-standing charities can always use extra help, in terms of helping hands or donations. And all are deserving.

LaGrand and Bailey are putting their money and spare time where their mouths are. How about the rest of us?

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  • As education, good jobs falter, violent crime rate will go up

    As April winds down, and with it Child Abuse Prevention Month, it’s worth again noting that the rate of violence in Oklahoma has been creeping up in recent years. And it’s time for our state’s top leaders – who wear blinders when it comes to anything negative – to discuss what we’re going to do about it.
    Late last year, the FBI listed Oklahoma as the 10th most dangerous state in the union, based on statistics from 2012. Violent crimes are rape, murder, robbery and aggravated assault. Some Okies might find it a bit disconcerting to learn that our state ranked above California and New York in this data. Topping the list was Tennessee, followed by Nevada, Alaska, New Mexico, South Carolina, Delaware, Louisiana, Florida and Maryland.

    April 23, 2014

  • Ban on wage hikes by municipalities a mark of hypocrisy

    The words “God” and “governor” may share the same first two letters, but the two are hardly interchangeable.
    But let’s assume Gov. Mary Fallin really isn’t deluded enough to place her powers on the level of a deity. What rationale would a woman who has championed smaller government and local control use to explain her hypocrisy in banning individual Oklahoma cities from raising minimum wages in their jurisdictions?

    April 18, 2014

  • Community cleanups a good way to ensure our collective success

    This is our community – and it’s no better than what we make it. Let’s make it look great.

    April 16, 2014

  • Attack at school in Pennsylvania: Mental illness root of problem

    Washington’s crusade against guns was dealt a severe blow on Wednesday. No, it wasn’t the Supreme Court curtailment of the Second Amendment right of all Americans to own firearms. It wasn’t an executive order handed down by the administration. It was the brutal assault by a high school student in Pennsylvania against his fellow students – with a knife.

    April 14, 2014

  • People with faulty zippers should be booted from office

    We may forgive, but we shouldn’t forget, because there’s serious work to do in Washington. That work will never be accomplished as long as flawed zippers - literally or figurately – are a pervasive problem.

    April 11, 2014

  • Do your part to fight animal and child abuse

    It’s hard to change the habits of an abuser, especially when mitigating factors – such as alcohol or drugs – are involved. And these patterns tend to repeat themselves in successive generations. But all of us can take one small step to help eradicate this epidemic, and that is to report it when we see it.

    April 9, 2014

  • NSA head lies to Congress, and seems to get away with it

    Is there an obvious pattern of criminality within these governmental agencies? If so, why isn’t the Judicial Department investigating?

    April 7, 2014

  • Pass for rich kiddie rapist proves that justice isn’t blind

    Someone in Wilmington, Del., needs to keep an eye on Superior Court Judge Jan Jurden for the next few months, because she might improve her standard of living due to a sudden influx of cash.
    There’s no other way to explain why Jurden would have sentenced an ultra-wealthy heir to the du Pont fortune to probation for raping his 3-year-old daughter. It’s an outrageous miscarriage of justice that once again proves when it comes to the U.S. justice system, the elite get a pass almost every time.

    April 4, 2014

  • Maybe it’s not $3.2B, but state should still account for tribal cash

    In an editorial published last week, the Daily Press said that through tribal compacts, the state of Oklahoma received about $3.2 billion in annual revenue, partly attributable to the 117 casinos (or 118, in some reports) run by 33 tribes in the state. The information we accessed for that piece was confusing, and had a typo or two, which may have led us to overstate – to a considerable degree – how much money the tribes actually give the state.

    April 2, 2014

  • Tribal compacts should mean state has money to perform its functions

    Oklahoma should be rolling in the dough. The statistics bear that out. Thirty-three American Indian tribes operate 117 casinos in this state. Thanks to “compacts,” these tribes have been sharing the wealth with the state of Oklahoma. And thanks to the casinos, that wealth is substantial.

    March 28, 2014


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