Makah to get $1 million grant to build housing for tribe’s most vulnerable

By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News

NEAH BAY — The Makah tribe will be awarded a $1 million grant to build housing for the most vulnerable families in Neah Bay, the State Department of Commerce announced.

The Makah Tribal Housing Department will receive $1,179,000 to construct the Sail River Longhouse, 21 apartment units to be built in Sail River Heights, a tribal housing development begun in 2007.

Residents will be selected among tribal members who have had difficulty maintaining housing due to domestic violence, drug or alcohol abuse, or mental health issues, said Wendy Lawrence, housing director for the tribe.

“I believe this housing initiative is the first of it’s kind among tribes in the state of Washington,” Lawrence said.

Many residents will have just come from treatment centers and don’t have safe, clean homes to help them stay clean and sober, she said.

In addition to housing, the tribe will provide rides to and from treatment centers and appointments, and on-site support.

Because of the cultural value of caring for each other, tribal members who are homeless are difficult to identify, she said.

She explained that traditional homeless counts don’t show the real need for housing, because most “homeless” are living with other family members or friends, couch surfing or otherwise in some way taken care of by their friends, family or neighbors.

“They aren’t sleeping in the street,” she said.

The Makah Tribal Housing Department currently lists 63 low-income families currently homeless and/or living in overcrowded situations.

With tax credits, which the tribe will apply for later this year, the Sail River Longhouse will be fully funded but will only supply about one quarter of the tribes housing needs for homeless families, Lawrence said.

The complex will include 12 one-bedroom units, four two-bedroom units, four three-bedroom units and an apartment for an on-site manager.

Construction on the new housing is expected to begin in late spring or early summer 2013.

The 51-acre Sail River Heights subdivision is on a higher elevation than the town of Neah Bay to place it above the tsunami zone.

Tsunami safety is an ongoing concern for tribal communities along the Washington coast. The Hoh and the Quileute tribes recently completed land swaps or purchases to be able to move their communities to safer locations.

When completed, Sail River will have 72 mortgage-based-ownership homes, 21 support apartments and 16 market-rate rentals, built for professionals who provide services to the tribe on a daily basis.

“It will also have a community clubhouse,” Lawrence said.

The tribe’s partnership with Clallam County Health and Human Services was instrumental in helping the tribe get the grant funding, she said.

The treatment programs that will be offered to residents of the new housing are tied closely with county treatment programs, and the county wrote a letter to the state in support of the tribe’s grant application.

“We are really excited about that partnership,” Lawrence said.

The grant’s funding comes from the state Housing Trust Fund, as a “community of concern.” A total of $6,729,000 in grants were awarded in 2012.

Other recipients of grant funding are Sea Mar Community Health Center, in Des Moines, El Centro de la Raza and Washington Housing Equity Alliance in Seattle, Catholic Community Services of Western Washington in Lynnwood, and Housing Authority of Longview.

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Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at arwyn.rice@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: August 20. 2012 6:07PM
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