Did you know? Despite making up only about 1% of the US population, Native Americans make up 10% of the country’s homeless. For this reason, the first-of-its-kind homeless shelter for Native Americans, created by Native Americans, opened in Seattle, Washington.
The groundbreaking shelter was launched by Chief Seattle Club – a nonprofit dedicated to ending Native homelessness. It made its debut in 2019 and is located in the Sodo neighborhood.
According to NPR, the village is made up of several dozen trailers that can comfortably house two people at a time. Each trailer has a private bathroom and kitchenette. All in all, the village can house up to 31 people who may need essential resources or stable living conditions until they can find more permanent housing.
The $3.3 million village is outfitted with a medicine garden, traditional healing circles, and on-site case management and resources. The managers of the village hope their trailblazing effort to help underprivileged Native Americans helps tackle the disproportionate rate of homelessness.
Resident Patricia St. Marks, 70, told KUOW on the site’s opening day: “It’s been a really rough road for me to travel. Knowing I’m going to have a place to live in Eagle Village, and move into my home one day, has put my heart into a permanent smile. Every day, I wake up feeling free now.”
Because of the history of mistreatment by the U.S. government, many homeless Native Americans don’t trust traditional government-run shelters.“If you had attended boarding school, for instance, or you were in the foster care system or you were one of those folks who have been forcibly sterilized, the likelihood of you going into a shelter which has those same kinds of systems, that same kind of feel, it’s unlikely because of how much it will trigger your trauma,” said Colleen Echohawk, executive director of Chief Seattle Club, which runs Eagle Village.
Eagle Village was funded by the country and state. Echohawk says the government is long overdue to fund homeless services for Native people. “I see this as sort of a way for government officials to fulfill those old obligations that have been forgotten by most part,” she said.
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Gary Fisher, a resident of Eagle Village, says the model isn’t just for Native shelters but for all shelters.
“Homeless shelters are filthy, rotten places for a human being,” Fisher said, gesturing around the community. “Look around you. There’s $3 million worth of brand new stuff all around you and I’m part of it. So I’m enjoying it. I’m loving it.”
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IMAGES CREDIT: KUOW PHOTO/KATE WALTERS