www.publicradiotulsa.org

By Chris Polansky

 

Youth Services of Tulsa was named the recipient of a $50,000 “social and racial justice grant” from the charitable arm of Public Service Company of Oklahoma (PSO)’s parent company, American Electric Power, at a press conference Thursday at the nonprofit’s facility on South Madison Avenue.

Peggy Simmons, PSO’s president and chief operating officer, said the gift was the first in Oklahoma as part of the AEP Foundation’s “Delivering on the Dream” grant program.

“The AEP Foundation created [the] program to support entities in our community that are really helping with the focus on eliminating systemic racism and working on social justice issues, and Youth Services of Tulsa is doing exactly that,” Simmons said.

David Grewe, YST’s executive director, said the money would be put toward its Transitions program, which helps people experiencing homelessness between the ages of 17 and 24 by providing housing, job and skills training and other support systems meant to help individuals transition to permanent housing and self-sufficiency.

“This will help support about 100 young people in apartments here in Tulsa,” Grewe said.

Grewe said the demographic disparities in homelessness are apparent in Tulsa, in Oklahoma and across the U.S.

“Our goal is to accept all youth, of course,” Grewe said. “But we know when we look at the overall statistics of who’s homeless in this country that young people of color, that LGBTQ+ youth are overly represented in that population. We really connect with them. We establish that level of trust, and we leverage that trust to get them off the streets and into housing.”

Simmons said the grant program’s goal of chipping away at systemic racism made YST a good fit.

“The participants, over 70% of them are Black, they’re Indigenous, they’re Hispanic, and so it’s really focusing on those marginalized communities,” Simmons said.