The Eastern Oklahoma Regional Bureau of Indian Affairs, located in Muskogee, OK, is focusing in various tribal programs throughout the eastern region. Some of the programs include education, health, law enforcement, domestic violence and many other programs. Working with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) is the Chickasaw Nation in assisting in the project by producing a video of the different programs.
The BIA selected the United Keetoowah Band of the Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma Housing department, featuring the Housing Improvement Program (HIP) funded through a grant from the BIA.
The UKB Housing submits applications throughout the year for the HIP program through the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Based on the reports sent to the bureau, it is evaluated through a point system, and then BIA selects the applicants who they will assist.
According to the Bureau of Indian Affairs Housing Improvement Program the guidelines is comprised of two charts, one for the Lower 48 states and the other for Alaska. The income figures on the chart establish the points they will receive for the first Need Ranking Factor based on Annual Household Income.
The HIP program is designated to help renovate homes of families who have limited resources. In 2014 three families were selected by the Bureau of Indian Affairs to receive help through the Home Improvement Program due to a carryover in funding from the year before.
“As tribal members apply for the United Keetoowah Band Housing rehabilitation program, a HIP application is also handed out to the applicant,” said Pat Reese, Director of Housing.
One of the renovated homes featured through HIP funding was the home of Tom and Glenda Handle of the Echota community, located between Wauhillau and Rocky Mountain communities in Adair County.
An extensive renovation was done on Handle’s home. The UKB Housing replaced their furnace, air conditioning unit, replaced their old roof with new roofing, repainted their inside walls, replace their old windows and remodeled one of theirbathrooms back to working conditions, even replaced their vent pipe.
Handle’s home is located on his mother’s restricted land, Maggie Handle. She turned the property over to Tom after his marriage to Glenda. Tom was born in 1955 and raised there in the Echota area. He met Glenda after she moved to Oklahoma from Houston, TX and married her in 1981.
“This was his mother’s land; the land belonged to the family for many generations. When Tom and I got married she gave him the land to build our house,” said Glenda.
“The house was in great condition when it was built, but through the years my sink starting falling in. My son and his wife had to rebuild it to reach me, unless I wanted to do the dishes on the floor. We got our house back now; it needed a lot of work, and we just couldn’t afford it. I’m glad they fixed it, they did a fantastic job, and it was a blessing. They painted the rooms, fixed the bathroom, they redid the roof, it had a leak, they shingled it and they put in new windows,” said Glenda.
“We are proud of it. We’ve lived here since 1991, and probably live here the rest of our lives,” added Glenda.
“I’m very pleased with the project; I feel that we are very fortunate to have that extra funding through the HIP program to help more tribal members. I think it’s very beneficial overall. It allows us to spend more dollars on a house. Some of the homes may need more work, and with that funding that we receive helps,” stated Reese.
The Housing Improvement Program was established under the Snyder Act of 1921. It was a BIA program authorized by Congress to benefit Native Americans. The program is a home repair, renovation, replacement and new housing grant program which is administered by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
A person has to be a member of a federally recognized American Indian tribe or Alaska Native to be eligible and have an income that does not exceed 125% of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services poverty guidelines.
Distribution of HIP funds to tribes are based upon the number of eligible applicants and their estimated cost of program services through Public Law 93-638 contracts, self-determination compacts or to Bureau of Indian Affairs offices.
For more information you can contact the UKB Housing at 918-431-1808, and ask for Pat Reese, UKB Housing director.