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Oklahoma Horizon TV Show 1624

This week on “Oklahoma Horizon,” we examine an issue that often hides in the shadows: homeless youth.
Oklahoma Horizon TV Show 1624

Oklahoma Horizon TV Show 1624

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Metro Tech Foundation

Moore Norman Technology Center

Metro Technology Centers


Anne Mahlum

Show Details

Show 1624: Oklahoma Horizon TV
Air Date: June 12, 2016



Rob McClendon: Here’s what’s coming up on your “Horizon.” Today, we examine an issue that often hides in the shadows, and that is homeless youth. We begin in Norman, Oklahoma, at a program called Bridges that helps young people bridge into a new life.

Debra Krittenbrink: They’re couch surfing, they’re staying with friends, some of them are on the streets -- not all of them -- and so it’s a very elusive population to find.

Rob: I will introduce you to a young lady who is flying high after a rough take off in her teen years.

Porsha Lippincott: I know I can’t just write them a big fat check saying, oh, here’s for all the years you’ve helped me. But hopefully, you know, if I can continue to keep saving money at Tinker, it’s just going to go right back in their pockets, and they’re going to be like, wow, I’ve made so much money this year, I’ll just donate some more.

Rob: We will look at the role skills training can play in helping those struggling with homelessness.

Latefia Wright: Because when you struggle and you go through so much pain your whole life, you didn’t know that good could happen.

Rob: We sit down with the founder of an organization that literally helps the homeless get on their feet.

Anne Mahlum: We wanted to use running as a vehicle to help those experiencing homelessness not be anymore. And so we knew that we couldn’t, you know, claim that we’re helping to eradicate this problem if we weren’t actually moving people forward.

Stay with us for “Oklahoma Horizon.”

Female Announcer: “Oklahoma Horizon” is made possible by CareerTech – a job for every Oklahoman and a workforce for every company -- with additional support from the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry.

Rob McClendon: Hello, everyone. Thanks for joining us here on “Horizon.” I’m Rob McClendon. According to a recent study, Oklahoma has one of the highest child homeless rates in the entire nation, with almost 50,000 homeless youth here in the state. Around three-fourths of these children are in temporary living situations rather than actually sleeping on the street, but still no permanent roof over their head. Joining me now to look at some of the work underway to help solve this issue is our Courtney Maye.

Courtney Maye: Children shifting between homes can struggle to find a stable life, and the situation they are in most likely isn’t a result of their own actions. Bridges is a program in Norman that helps high school students who are homeless get back on their feet. This program allows students who maintain a job, school attendance and good grades the opportunity to have a stable living situation and support system around them.

Courtney Maye: Nearly one in 19 Oklahoma kids are homeless, yet a common misconception about the homeless population is that they are all living on the streets, which is not the case. Debra Krittenbrink is the director of Bridges in Norman, a program that is giving these homeless youth a second chance.

Debra Krittenbrink: They’re often kind of a hidden population. They’re couch surfing, they’re staying with friends, some of them are on the streets -- not all of them -- and so it’s a very elusive population to find.

Courtney: Now, we are unable to show any of the current children in the Bridges program because some of their lives could be in danger. But these children go through a selection process to be placed in an apartment where they live on their own. They are required to maintain a job, pay a sliding scale rent and attend school.

Krittenbrink: Right now most of the students are here, are here for two reasons: either they were kicked out when they turned 18 for lack of room, lack of resources on their parents’ part, or their parents themselves are homeless, and they chose to put their kids in a better space.

Courtney: Dylan Dawson is a Bridges graduate and credits his life’s success to the program.

Dylan Dawson: I was wandering around. I didn’t necessarily have a stationary single place to stay. Things were very unstable for me. Planning from day to day or into any kind of longer term plans was a very difficult thing for me to do. I was spotty in terms of like being able to keep up my health and like going to the dentist or the doctor, things to that extent, and Bridges really gave me the stability that I needed.

Courtney: Dawson says Bridges prepared him for living on his own in college.

Dawson: What surprised me was how much more prepared I was for some of those small things that you might not necessarily think about than many of my peers. You’d be surprised how many people didn’t know how to do laundry or cook for themselves or anything like that or simply just being able to live on their own.

Courtney: Yet Dawson says the number one thing Bridges does for homeless youth is allow them to believe in themselves, which is something some have never done before.

Dawson: I think the main problem whenever you get into bad circumstances such as homelessness is imprisoning yourself mentally, putting your own boundaries on yourself and what you can do. At the point where someone believes that they are incapable of being able to aspire to something greater, they’re never going to. And that’s part of the importance of Bridges is making us, giving us a platform to be able to believe in ourselves again.

Rob: So, Courtney, what are the qualifications for a young person to enter into the Bridges program?

Courtney: Bridges has 20 units available on site, and they are apartments, and these students can come in if you’re in the Norman Public School District from age of 14 to 21. They can come in, do an interview, and as long as they are mature enough and the staff believes that they can maintain a job, attend school and pay their rent, then they’re qualified to live in these apartments.

Rob: All right. Thank you so much, Courtney. It’s a huge help for a lot of lives. Thank you so much.

Rob: Now, when we return, the story of a young Oklahoman who is working to repay some of the help she has been given with taxpayer savings.

Female Announcer: You’re watching “Oklahoma Horizon” with Rob McClendon – weekly insight into your changing world.

Rob McClendon: To say that Porsha Lippincott had a bit of a rough take-off early on in life is an understatement. Homeless at 17 and literally living in a refrigerator box, she was desperate for a new direction. And with some help from others and a lot of initiative of her own, Porsha’s life and career is now flying high at 50,000 feet.

Rob McClendon: Teaching night students at Metro Tech’s Aviation Campus.

Porsha Lippincott: And make sure you guys are careful with those heating elements.

Rob: It’s easy to see instructor Porsha Lippincott knows her way around a jet engine.

Lippincott: Are you guys labeling each part that you take out?

Rob: But it’s not always been that way. Homeless at 17, Porsha was living out of a refrigerator box.

Lippincott: I had just recently got a job at Sonic, so every day I would sleep in the box and go to Sonic, come home, sleep in the box, and I did it for three months. So one day, at Sonic, in the morning, I get a phone call. It’s a lady from Norman North, and she’s a counselor, and I kind of just broke down and told her everything that was going on. Well, she told me to stand by, and she would call me right back. About five minutes later I got her and Bridges, which is an independent homeless shelter for kids, who called saying that they wanted to meet me that day. They showed me this cute little apartment in this house that was all to myself and they told me, “This is where we want you to live, go back to school, you could work, we’ll help you get a car or whatever you need to do to go to school.” And that day, I moved in.

Rob: And Porsha’s life began to turn around – a roof over her head and even saving some money.

Lippincott: I found this ’93 Jeep Grand Cherokee. It had like seven different colors going on, but I was OK with it. I paid a $1,000 for it. It ran. There were some kind of sketchy things about it, like the gas – I never knew when the gas was gonna run out because the meter was going [back and forth motion]. But as time went on my car started to act a lot different, and then it started to break down. And then one day, it just didn’t start at all. It was $1,907 to repair this oil pan gasket. At that time I had no idea what any of that meant. I went on YouTube and I looked up what an oil pan gasket was, and it was on a ’93 Jeep Grand Cherokee, and they were showing how you took off all these bolts – 27 of them, took down the oil pan, took off the gasket, put a new one on, put the oil pan back up, bolted it down, put some oil in and you were good to go. And I was like, that is, that’s the most ridiculous thing ever, I could do this. Seven hours later -- which nowadays it wouldn’t take me seven hours, but it did -- seven hours later I had my car running, and it actually ran better than it did before.

Rob: Turning a crisis into an opportunity.

Lippincott: So I graduated high school and got my high school diploma. When I got done, they had already filled out paperwork for me to go to Moore Norman Technology Center to go and be a mechanic over there, and I did. When I got done, I got my ASEs, so that was, that was my whole getting out of being homeless and onto my own feet, with a cool certification.

Rob: And while Porsha enjoyed working on cars and trucks, life was still often a struggle.

Lippincott: At the time, I was actually working three jobs. Four hours of sleep was OK for me, but when it became me being pregnant, I couldn’t do four hours of sleep anymore. At that time I was put on some government assisted programs, and they had referred me to come out to Metro Tech Aviation because I already had automotive. When I enrolled, they told me about Metro Tech’s foundations. They had told me about welfare, some of the welfare foundations, and I was able to get on almost every single one of them. So when I got out here, my tools, my books, my certifications, my class – everything was paid for. All I had to do was come to school and learn and then go home and be happy.

Rob: And while school was paid for, it still takes money to live.

Lippincott: I mean, I still had bills that I had to pay, and I didn’t have a nighttime job because I really couldn’t do that with my son. While I was struggling, one of my teachers, Mr. Hensley, told me that Metro Tech Foundation still had other benefits that I could benefit from. He told me that they could help me pay for gas and rent. So I called and told them the stuff that I was going through. I proved to them that I was having a hard time, and they helped me pay for rent, and they actually paid for my gas for a while. So I was able to go through school. I didn’t have to get a second job. When I got done here, I had applied to Tinker eight months before I got, I graduated here, and right when I graduated they sent me a letter saying, “We’d like you to come work for us. Your start date is Oct. 6.” And so Oct. 6, I started at Tinker.

Rob: And Porsha’s career took off.

Lippincott: Other than the awesome amount of money you could make -- which is awesome -- you have people that are grateful. You have pilots that will come shake your hand. You have military people that respect you because you are willing to put forth that effort to help make sure that these airplanes fly and that they can support our war fighters. And I think that’s the best feeling ever. If you put a lot of effort into this, you’re going to go far because people are going to appreciate you. You may not think so when you first get out there, but they’re going to appreciate you for what you’ve done.

Rob: In fact, thanks to Porsha’s suggestions, mechanics at Tinker now use a different approach when repairing these simple electrical wires.

Lippincott: Well, these wires, individually, there is three on the inlets, and they cost roughly around, with the connectors, $3,000 a piece. So, and we were doing 12 to 20 inlets a month, and we were cutting out every single one of them. What I had thought about was, why don’t we just a piece of fiberglass tape on it, and then wrap it with safety wire in a way that couldn’t come apart, and what it came out to it was $2.5 million dollars that I had saved, and that’s annually. And the fiberglass and the safety wire doesn’t cost anything, so, and now it’s actually in the books as a repair. You know, thank you for helping me, now I’m helping you back to all those people that have helped fund me in the long run. I know I can’t just write them a big fat check saying, oh, here’s for all the years you’ve helped me. But hopefully, you know, if I can continue to keep saving money at Tinker, it’s just going to go right back in their pockets, and they’re going to be like, wow, I’ve made so much money this year. I’ll just donate some more.

Female Announcer: Still to come on “Oklahoma Horizon,” helping the homeless get back on their feet.

You know they were starting to see themselves as somebody who wasn’t homeless or undeserving or not capable, but instead somebody who was an athlete, a runner, reliable, a team member.

Announcer: But first, helping students through financial crisis.

Rob McClendon: In our last story, Porsha Lippincott mentioned all the help she received to pull herself out of homelessness. And such emergency assistance is not uncommon at Metro Technology Centers in Oklahoma City. Joining me now is the director of the Metro Tech Foundation, Cathy Poteet.

Well, I’m certainly impressed with Ms. Lippincott’s story, but there are very similar stories all across the board when it comes to the Metro Tech Foundation.

Cathy Poteet: Yes, there really is, our district is made up, you know, the urban core of Oklahoma City, and so there is a lot of poverty in that area. But we do serve high school students and adults. The foundation helps to assist students in financial situations so that the students can stay on track in their training. But we do have many not unlike Porsha -- hers is probably more unique -- but certainly lots of different types of situations.

Rob: Yeah, and what type of help are we talking about?

Poteet: The foundation helps in a number of ways. We have certification, tools and uniforms, student emergency assistance, and we also have scholarships where it’s merit-based. So really the, kind of the dire of all of those are the emergencies.

Rob: Answering those needs not only helps the students, but a lot of these students come from either some tough backgrounds. They may have a family that depends upon this education as well.

Poteet: That’s absolutely right. We have a lot of high school students, you know, that you think because they’re in high school they have the support of their families, and they do, but they’re struggling too with finances. And then of course many adults who are trying to, they’re coming through the programs trying to have a better life for themselves and their families, and so everyone in their family, they may have children, they may not, they may be married but they’re taking care of those, their family members as well.

Rob: Yeah, and I’ve had the opportunity to emcee the Metro Tech Foundation banquet for the past several years, and I’m always struck by the success stories that you meet there.

Poteet: One of the students that you may recall is Rebecca Roy, and she is a single mother. When she began the program, she was married and with two small children and you know, one day her husband just left her with $8 in the bank and two children and a mortgage -- left the home. And she very much is trying to get on top of her education and get through, but now here she’s, she really was just about ready to drop out because she was behind on her mortgage, really probably was just going to have to go get a job and do it. However, she did seek some assistance through her director there. They came to the foundation, and we were able to help her get caught up on her mortgage payment, and that kept her in school.

Rob: And some of these awards you give to the students, they may seem small, but they’re really big in their lives.

Poteet: They really are, when we were talking about emergency assistance, some of that is even just gas for their car to get to school. Because if they don’t gas, they can’t get to the campus, it results in a tardy or an absence, and those add up, and they can be you know expelled just like your students in high school or college. So having gas in their car is a really big deal. You and I, you know, we don’t think anything of it. Rent is another one. Another common request is utilities -- 24-hour cutoff notice and you’ve got children at home on a Friday. So we work really hard to be responsive when those requests come in to pay a utility bill or rent to avoid eviction, that’s another issue. And then many times from one of our campuses, it’s eyeglasses. So, health, you know, health is another, insurance is another thing that --

Rob: Expense.

Poteet: That’s right, absolutely right.

Rob: Yeah, well those are certainly some inspiring stories, and if you’d like to find out more about the Metro Tech Foundation, we do have a link to them on our website. Cathy, thank you so much.

Poteet: Thank you so much, Rob.

Rob McClendon: Now, emceeing the Metro Tech Foundation banquet I do have the opportunity, as I said, to learn the stories of a variety of students working to help their families have that better life. And one of my favorites is the story of Latefia Wright.


Andy Barth: Latefia Wright hammers away at Metro Tech’s electrician class, a skill she really enjoys. But the road that got her here is anything but enjoyable.

Latefia Wright: They said that they found me pretty much in a dog house with flea bites, tick bites, roach bites. They had to surgically remove my diaper.

Andy: At 2 years old, Wright was placed in foster care and for years was labeled a runner.

Wright: I was pretty polite, but I just ran away. I was a chronic AWOLer. You couldn’t hold me down for nothing.

Andy: And at the age of 15, Wright ran to Atlanta, Georgia, where she found herself homeless.

Wright: I ate a pack of sardines and crackers every day from the convenience store. Hustling up change off of whoever I could, doing whatever I could.

Andy: Yet her life changed when a man took her in and taught her the electrical trade.

Wright: And he took me to work with him, and that is when I learned how to do my first receptacle and hammering the nails and splice boxes.

Andy: Wright moved back to Oklahoma to try to reconnect with her family. After a failed attempt, she found herself a single mother of two needing a job. That’s when she met her instructor.

Wright: I didn’t think that they still made Mr. Martins anymore. You know the teachers that, you know, really don’t want, they don’t care about money. The only thing he cares about is passing on knowledge.

Andy: And instructor Jerry Martin says she’s every teacher’s dream.

Jerry Martin: She’s got a work ethic that’s phenomenal. She works hard. She gives everything she’s got to whatever she’s doing. She’s really the type of student you want as a teacher.

Andy: And according to Martin, Wright has what it takes for the business.

Martin: I think the sky is the limit for her. But she really has just a desire to do electrical work.

Andy: As well as a desire to give back.

Wright: My long-term dream is to work in the electrical field, to start an all-women electrical company and build a teenage group home that’s solar-powered.

Andy: And even with a jaded past, Wright now has the skills and relationships for a happy life.

Wright: I never could imagine that my life would be this good. Because when you struggle and you go through so much pain your whole life, you didn’t know that good could happen. Everybody needs somebody. And I needed Metro Tech. It saved my life.

Female Announcer: “Horizon” is at your fingertips – join us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to catch the segments you may have missed and our latest new content as it happens.

Rob McClendon: Helping the homeless get back on their feet is literally what our next guest has done. Anne Mahlum is the founder of a privately funded organization dedicated to using running as a catalyst to create self-sufficiency in the lives of those experiencing homelessness, and I spoke with her at Moore Norman Technology Center.

Rob McClendon: For Anne Mahlum, a good run helps her cope with the struggles of life.

Anne Mahlum: My dad is an addict. He went through drug and alcohol recovery when I was a kid. I’ve never seen him drink or do drugs. But then gambling got a hold of my father when I was a teenager and ripped apart my family, so running was always my outlet for that.

Rob: And it was on one of those runs she realized what works for her could work for others.

Mahlum: I was running by a homeless shelter when I was 27, a homeless shelter that I had ran by hundreds of times before, and I didn’t really pay attention to the people that I saw. But for whatever reason in May of 2007, this group of guys who were hanging outside there early in the mornings there wave at me, and I wave back. And that continued over the next couple of weeks, and then I took notice of them and realized, you know, why am I just running by these guys and leaving them there? Why do I get to be the runner, and they have to be the homeless guys on the corner?

Rob: So Anne began a running club for the homeless. That’s now grown into a six and a half million dollar organization called Back On My Feet.

Mahlum: It turns out you can use running as an emotional change for people, to change the way they see themselves. So what was happening in the first two weeks of this running club was watching people change their behaviors. You know, they were starting to see themselves as somebody who wasn’t homeless or underserving or not capable, but instead somebody who was an athlete, a runner, reliable, a team member. And when you can change somebody’s identity and get them to see themselves differently, only then can you get them to make real substantial change in their life. So this whole idea was, like, these guys are gonna be in this homeless shelter the rest of their life if they don’t start to see themselves as deserving and capable. How do we do that? So we started to change their environment.

Rob: By providing clothes and equipment to help the homeless move towards self-sufficiency.

Mahlum: Back On My Feet has a success rate of 46 percent of moving people from a state of dependency, living in a shelter, to job training, employment, housing, and a lot of those folks are also continuing with education. So this was not just a, oh, we want to help those who are experiencing homelessness be runners. We wanted to use running as a vehicle to help those experiencing homelessness not be anymore. And so we knew that we couldn’t, you know, claim that we’re helping to eradicate this problem if we weren’t actually moving people forward. So we track all of that data. You know, someone starts in our program, it takes us about six months on average to move somebody from the state of dependency into a place where they are working, where they have a real understanding of what their debt is, you know, what their history looks like and how they clean up that history to be able to move forward.

Rob: All by taking that very first step.

Female Announcer: Want to see more stories like this? All our segments are streaming on our YouTube channel at OklahomaHorizonTV.

Rob McClendon: Next time on “Oklahoma Horizon,” we begin an ongoing look at the state questions to appear on the November ballot. And we begin with State Question 777 – The Right to Farm.

Jimmy Kinder: I grow food for people, and that’s what I’m about. If it passes today, nothing changes out here on the farm. We still have rules and laws that we have to abide by, and we’re OK with that.

Rob: State Question 777 on Oklahoma’s show for the heartland, “Oklahoma Horizon.”

Rob McClendon: Well, that is gonna wrap us up for today, but you can see more of any of our stories on our website at You can follow us throughout the week on Twitter at OKHorizonTV or just become a Horizon fan on Facebook. I’m Rob McClendon. Thanks for including us in your day. Hope to see you back here next week.

Female Announcer: “Oklahoma Horizon” is made possible by the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education. Oklahoma’s CareerTech provides nationally recognized technical education. CareerTech elevates the economy – helping Oklahomans get great jobs. CareerTech connects thousands of qualified graduates with thriving Oklahoma businesses. CareerTech also gives Oklahoma companies training and services that help them become even more profitable. Oklahoma’s CareerTech – a job for every Oklahoman and a workforce for every company. And the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry.