Drum group from Chief Seattle Club
Published June 2, 2018
Inaccurate statistics will impact services to homeless Native community state local Native organizations
SEATTLE — King County’s annual one-night count of homelessness claims that there is an overall increase across the county. The report also claims that homelessness has declined within the American Indian and Alaska Native community, citing Native people account for three percent of the overall homeless population compared to six percent last year.
Officials of several Native organizations that provide services for the Native population do not agree with the figures and fear the low count will result in reduced–much needed–funding.
“This report claims that half of our homeless population is now living in housing compared to last year, but at Chief Seattle Club, membership increased by 17 percent in 2016 and another 14 percent in 2017,” said Colleen Echohawk, Executive Director of Chief Seattle Club, a nonprofit organization that advocates for and provides services to the Native homeless population in Seattle.
Leadership from the Chief Seattle Club, Seattle Indian Health Board, United Indians of All Tribes Foundation, Mother Nation, and Urban Indian Health Institute collaborated after the release of the 2018 report to compare agency service data. An inaccurate account of homeless among American Indians and Alaska Natives in the one-night count could have devastating consequences on the services they provide to the Native homeless population because funders and policymakers rely on this data to make decisions.
“From the start, the methodologies they used to gather this data was not going to accurately reflect the number of homeless Native people in this county because they simply were not surveying the right locations,” said Abigail Echo-Hawk, Director of Urban Indian Health Institute. “This is unacceptable and only creates more problems and harm for a marginalized community.”
Abigail Echo-Hawk also claimed that mix-raced American Indians and Alaska Natives were likely not accounted for though they represent a large portion of the general Native population.
“Our organizations have been successful in bringing the issue of Native homelessness to the attention of policymakers,” said Mike Tulee, Executive Director of United Indians of All Tribes Foundation. “But the inaccuracy of this report shows that there is a strong need for more collaboration between our organizations and King County to ensure that we are working together to find solutions for our communities.”
“Native organizations provide services in culturally appropriate ways and are trusted within our community, which is why a high number of Native people come to us for services,” said Norine Hill, Executive Director of Mother Nation. “We are working directly with our Native people, and we hold the knowledge that can benefit everyone, but we have to be asked.”