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OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — Upward Transitions, a local nonprofit offering services to people experiencing poverty in our community, announced Tuesday it had received a $20,000 grant from the Kirkpatrick Family Fund.

It is a much-needed transfusion of resources into an organization that helped thousands in the past year with only five case managers.

Upward Transitions

Upward Transitions was founded in 1925 under the name of Travelers Aid. For over 95 years the nonprofit has worked to bring relief to people suffering from poverty in our community. Their mission reads:

“To prevent generational poverty through community collaboration, emergency relief, and empowerment, therefore inspiring hope with our neighbors experiencing housing instability.”

Upward Transitions pursues its mission by serving families and individuals who are homeless, at risk of becoming homeless, or stranded by providing case management and stabilizing resources to help meet basic social needs. Our ultimate goal is to assist families and individuals during times of financial devastation, so they remain – or can return to being – productive contributors to their community.

One of the crucial ways Upward Transitions serves its mission constituents is by helping persons who have lost any personal ID to procure a Social Security Card, birth certificate, and state ID, without which most housing programs are unable to move a client into stable housing.

Grant Help

Upward Transitions is a non-profit organization that relies on several sources of funding, including public funding, private donations, and the aid of philanthropic organizations like the Kirkpatrick Family Fund.

The Kirkpatrick Family Fund has invested in Upward Transitions’ efforts in the community since 2006. Initially that assistance was specifically for Upward Transitions’ transitional housing program. 

“Transitional housing” is a commonly used phrase in social services that refers specifically to temporary supportive housing. In this model, a client experiencing homelessness is helped to move into a home where they will be assisted in achieving some stability through case management services ranging from mental health care, physical health care, substance use assistance, and employment readiness.

In more recent years, the Kirkpatrick Family Fund has unrestricted the grants given to the organization so that they may use the money where most needed to best serve their clientele.

The COVID-19 emergency has taken a difficult toll on the organization and strained its resources. But, loyal donors have stepped up.

“We have experienced incredible generosity from donors this year,” Pulliam said.

Last year an important funding source disappeared, but Pulliam and team have pulled together to work on rebuilding that funding.

In the past year, Upward Transitions has served 2,200 households in Oklahoma City. They have done this work with only five case managers.

Shift in mission

Free Press was able to speak via telephone to Upward Transitions CEO Periann Pulliam. Pulliam has been CEO since 2009.

Periann Pulliam, CEO, Upward Transitions (provided)

Pulliam explained that the organization was founded in 1925 as “Travelers Aid.” The organization was often focused on assisting stranded travelers at the time. 

But over the years, their mission changed to focus on the prevention of homelessness and transition out of that difficult situation. In 2007, the organization, with the assistance of Leadership OKC, rebranded as Upward Transitions.

“We have to change with the times to meet needs,” Pulliam told Free Press. “Travelers come in all forms.”

While Community Cares Partners administer most of the funds in Oklahoma County allotted for rental and utility assistance, Upward Transitions also offers some of that assistance mainly for people who are seniors. 

In addition to assisting people experiencing homelessness remove the barriers to housing, like the above-mentioned assistance procuring identification papers, they are also endeavoring to help people get ahead of situations that often result in homelessness.

For more information about Upward Transitions, please visit their website at upwardtransitions.org.

Kirkpatrick Family Fund

The Kirkpatrick Family Fund was founded in 1989 by John and Eleanor Kirkpatrick. Since then the philanthropic organization has built a strong reputation as a community partner and funder of Oklahoma City’s cultural, artistic, and educational institutions.

The Fund distributes approximately $3 million annually in grants and charitable activities, and to date has given more than $67 million.