Supportive Housing Supports Native American Culture and Tackles Homelessness in Seattle, Washington

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Supportive Housing Supports Native American Culture and Tackles Homelessness in Seattle, Washington

ʔálʔal, 80 supportive rental units in Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighborhood, was developed by the Chief Seattle Club to meet the needs of homeless Native Americans. Photo credit: Walsh Construction

In King County, Washington, which includes the city of Seattle, Native Americans make up only 1% of the population, but 15% of the total homeless population and 32% of the total chronically homeless. This disparity is not uncommon for Native Americans living in urban areas in the United States. Moreover, traditional social services in Seattle and other American cities do not adequately respond to the specific cultural needs of Aboriginal people. Since 1970, the Chief Seattle Club, a non-profit organization that serves the mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of the local Indigenous population, has attempted to address homelessness in its community with a holistic, culturally appropriate approach. The organization pursues its mission through programs that provide temporary housing, trauma-informed case management, community building activities and employment services. ʔálʔal (pronounced “everything”), which means “home” in Lushootseed, is the Chief Seattle Club’s first permanent affordable housing development and offers 80 units primarily for homeless people. The mixed-use project, located next to the organization’s headquarters in Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighborhood, also includes spaces for a comprehensive health clinic, cafe and art gallery, as well as a community hall. where residents receive support services that maintain the stability of their housing. The architectural style and building features of ʔálʔal uniquely reflect the culture, art, and priorities of the Native American community. Opened in early 2022, the project is one of many housing developments the Chief Seattle Club has planned for the coming years.

project details

ʔálʔal is a 9-storey building consisting of 80 studios. Ten units are reserved for veterans, and the remaining units, intended for homeless people, are affordable for households earning between 30 and 50 percent of the region’s median income. The development also set aside 15 units for county Coordinated Entry System referrals. The Chief Seattle Club, which also operates shelters, targeted eligible Native Americans it served through its other programs by having them fill out an interest form before the development opened. The organization expects full occupation of ʔálʔal by the end of March 2022.

Photo of the corner of a room with a large window on the right and native artwork on the left. The ʔálʔal building was designed to avoid an institutionalized feel of a long hallway with rooms on either side. Residents can socialize at the end of each hallway with views of the water in the distance. Photo credit: Chief Seattle Club

The residential part of ʔálʔal is on the top seven floors of the building and is accessed by one of the three entrances on the ground floor. According to Derrick Belgarde, executive director of the Chief Seattle Club, the residential floor plan was deliberately designed to avoid the institutional look of a long hallway with units on either side. Native American architect Johnpaul Jones recognized the trauma these environments cause to Native American populations and designed each floor with short, restless hallways with space at the ends for residents to socialize and enjoy views of Puget Sound. More than 60 native artworks hang throughout the residential building, reinforcing the Chief Seattle Club’s hope that “no matter where you are, whether it’s inside or outside, you can look and know that it’s an aboriginal building,” according to Belgarde.

Indigenous design elements also adorn the exterior of the building. The south-facing wall features a brick design of a 40-foot matriarch of the Coast Salish people. Other brick designs on the building’s front face reflect aspects of Aboriginal life, including natural elements, such as rain; human life, such as canoes; and animals, such as geese. The Chief Seattle Club plans to place a 25-foot statue of a Native mother figure, which was designed by a Native artist, at the entrance to the building after the organization reconstructs the front sidewalk.

The project’s community spaces also contribute to the Chief Seattle Club’s goal of providing sacred spaces to help Indigenous peoples heal within the context of a supportive community. A community room on the third floor is available to residents for social events such as movie nights as well as culturally relevant programs such as a drum-making class or a talking circle. From the Community Hall, residents can walk to a small outdoor plaza that connects ʔálʔal and the Chief Seattle Club building. The ground floor of the building includes a cafe which will open later in 2022. Belgarde expects the cafe to serve breakfast and lunch and offer indigenous dishes; it will also serve as a gallery space where participants of Native Works, the Chief Seattle Club’s workforce development program, can sell their wares. Another community amenity available to ʔálʔal residents, Chief Seattle Club members, and the general public is a health clinic operated by the Seattle Indian Health Board. The clinic, which is expected to open later in 2022, has a separate street-level entrance, consists of exam rooms and a pharmacy, and will serve the mental and physical health needs of the community.

Photo of a bedroom with a bed on the left, a kitchen counter on the right, and a window in the back. Residents have access to on-site support services, including case managers to help residents maintain their housing. Photo credit: Chief Seattle Club

Holistic healing and health

ʔálʔal extends the resources of the Chief Seattle Club, which is located next door, by providing on-site support service opportunities that help stabilize former homeless residents in the organization’s housing. According to Belgarde, two Chief Seattle Club housing case managers provide residents with trauma-informed on-site case management to ensure they maintain their health and well-being. A program manager maintains a schedule of regular activities that honor Aboriginal customs, traditions and history. An example of this culturally specific approach is Wellbriety, an Indigenous-informed approach to recovery from substance addiction. ʔálʔal residents can participate in these activities both in the community space of the building and in the programs that take place at the headquarters of the Chief Seattle Club next door. Residents will also be able to access health services provided in the Seattle Indian Health Board clinic on the ground floor. In addition to the program manager and case managers provided by the Chief Seattle Club, ʔálʔal has a full-time staff member responsible for maintaining building safety and security.

Develop more supportive housing for Native Americans

Permanent affordable housing that meets the holistic needs of homeless Indigenous people has become one of the Chief Seattle Club’s priorities in recent years. Only in the past decade, Belgarde says, has the organization expanded its scope to include providing holistic services that stabilize the mental, physical and spiritual needs of its community. The $50 million project, the first of its kind for the Chief Seattle Club, relied on city, county, state and federal funds, as well as approximately $20 million in donations private funds that the organization had collected through a major fundraising campaign. Lessons the Chief Seattle Club learned from its first development are informing several new affordable housing projects in the works, including family-friendly units, and the organization plans to share that knowledge with other nonprofit minority developers. .

Source:

Correspondence from Derrick Belgarde, Executive Director, and James Lovell, Director of Development, Chief Seattle Club, February 28, 2022; Head of the Seattle club. and “ʔálʔal”. Accessed March 8, 2022; Interview with Derrick Belgarde, February 15, 2022. ×

Source:

Correspondence from Derrick Belgarde and James Lovell, Director of Development, Chief Seattle Club, February 28, 2022; Interview with Derrick Belgarde, February 15, 2022; Jones and Jones. and “People”. Accessed March 8, 2022; National Foundation for the Humanities. nd “Johnpaul Jones: National Medal of Humanities, 2013”. Accessed March 8, 2022. ×

Source:

Interview with Derrick Belgarde, February 15, 2022; Head of the Seattle club. and “ʔálʔal”. Accessed March 8, 2022. ×

Source:

Interview with Derrick Belgarde, February 15, 2022; Head of the Seattle club. and “ʔálʔal”. Accessed March 8, 2022; Correspondence from Derrick Belgarde and James Lovell, director of development, Chief Seattle Club, February 28, 2022. ×

Source:

Interview with Derrick Belgarde, February 15, 2022; Correspondence from Derrick Belgarde and James Lovell, director of development, Chief Seattle Club, February 28, 2022. ×

Source:

Interview with Derrick Belgarde, February 15, 2022; Correspondence from Derrick Belgarde and James Lovell, director of development, Chief Seattle Club, February 28, 2022. ×

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