Story at a glance
- A city partnership with a nonprofit has established the first housing village in Seattle for disenfranchised Native Americans and Alaskans.
- Called Eagle Village, the project costs up to $3.3 million, but will house formerly homeless Native Americans for free.
- The housing complex will also offer on-site support to help Native Americans find sustainable jobs and housing.
The levels of homelessness across the U.S. are surging, but nowhere is it as prevalent as along the West Coast. While California is the first state that comes to mind, Seattle also has a sizeable population of housing-vulnerable citizens. Consistently ranking among the top 10 most expensive cities in the U.S., Seattle has officially acknowledged it’s homelessness rate is a crisis.
Digging deeper, the data reveal an unsettling fact: the Native American and Alaskan Native population have the highest rates of homelessness in Seattle. While Native Americans and Alaskans make up just 1 percent of residents in the Seattle area, approximately 6 percent of that ethnic group are without shelter. Though it is a painful irony considering the city itself is named after late Native American Chief Seattle, the trend is not altogether surprising, with Native Americans nationally suffering significant health disparities and safety issues in comparison to the rest of the country.
The problem takes a toll on the indigenous community, with reports of elders dying in public parks. This past October, however, the nonprofit Chief Seattle Club and King County officials opened Eagle Village, a housing community devoted to sheltering vulnerable Native Americans. Per a King County press release, Eagle Village is a “pilot project.” The Seattle Times reported it is equipped with 24 available units in six refurbished trailers bought in Houston for $90,000 each.
“We know that people of color, and particularly Native Americans, are disproportionately represented in the homeless population, and we are committed to tackling that challenge,” says Dow Constantine, an executive in King County who helped spearhead the project.
In addition to housing security, a larger mission of Eagle Village is addressing health and social problems stemming from a variety of illnesses and traumas. Chief Seattle Club Executive Director Colleen Echohawk spoke to The Seattle Times about the ethos of Eagle Village, confirming that one of the goals will be to “provide housing and wraparound support for residents that’s informed by trauma.” The press release adds that it will include programming matching Native Americans to permanent housing and employment solutions on site.