Issue: Approximately 2 percent of Seattle residents are Native American, and yet, on any given night nearly one-third of the chronic alcoholics receiving treatment at the King
County Sobering Center are Natives. It’s clear that the system is failing this group. The City Council can help them by appropriating $50,000 to help build culturally appropriate housing.
Background: Native Americans have the highest alcohol and chemical dependency rates of any ethnic group, and in combination with the institutionalized racism and social dislocation endured over generations, are more likely to end up living apart from their tribes and homeless, mentally ill, unemployed, chronically ill, or in jail.
When a Native American, suffering from any combination of these issues, is tired of street life and ready for a change, ideally, they will be placed at the Thunderbird Treatment Center within the Seattle Indian Health Board. Here, they will receive culturally appropriate addiction services, typically for 30, 60, or 90 days.
After treatment, the safety net fails: most chronic alcoholics have no social network and nowhere to go. There are a number of public and private “clean and sober” or “halfway house” beds available in King County, but the wait for space is far too long. By the time a bed has opened up, a newly sober individual is likely to have slipped back into old habits. Furthermore, all of the Clean and Sober housing available throughout the county is based on the majority, non-Indian experience. There is no clean and sober housing in King County that treats a recovering alcoholic from an American Indian perspective. There is currently no federal, state, or local funding earmarked to provide safe housing that is culturally sensitive to the homeless American Indian suffering from substance abuse and/or mental health issues.
The First Nations housing and recovery project was proposed as a program designed specifically for Native Americans experiencing these setbacks. Recent research done on behalf of the Archdiocesan Housing Authority shows that American Indians respond differently to standard social services, and are not achieving the same beneficial outcomes as individuals from other ethnic groups. American Indian clients released from treatment and entering traditional, non-Indian housing often feel isolated and encounter discrimination and prejudice, leave the facility within a few days, and relapse.
The Archdiocesan Housing Authority, Chief Seattle Club, Seattle Indian Health Board, and United Indians of All Tribes Foundation are working together to break the cycle of addiction and homelessness, offering clean-and-sober Native American Housing to bring hope, home, and sobriety to some of our neediest residents. A building is secured and this program is prepared to open in January 2008 with private funding and a commitment from Catholic Community Services of Western Washington.
Action: The Seattle city budget for 2008 is near completion, and time to advocate for needed services is slipping away. Please voice your support for a one-time expenditure of $50,000 of city funds for this brand-new program.
Contact your City Council member and express your support for funding the First Nations housing program. Member email addresses and phone numbers:
Nick Licata firstname.lastname@example.org (206)684-8803
Sally Clark email@example.com (206)684-8802
Peter Steinbrueck firstname.lastname@example.org (206)684-8804
Richard Conlin email@example.com (206)684-8805
David Della firstname.lastname@example.org (206)684-8806
Jan Drago email@example.com (206)684-8801
Jean Godden firstname.lastname@example.org (206)684-8807
Richard McIver email@example.com (206)684-8800
Tom Rasmussen firstname.lastname@example.org (206)684-8808
For more information about the First Nations project, contact Rachael Myers, Archdiocesan Housing Authority, (206)618-2757 or email@example.com.