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As Homelessness Rises in Seattle, So Does a Native American Housing Solution

In many cities, Indigenous people experience homelessness at far higher rates than whites. A new housing project aimed at better serving this community will try a holistic approach. 

The fencing around a new Seattle housing project aimed at Native Americans is decorated with images from the 1865 city ordinance that expelled Indigenous people from the city. 

The fencing around a new Seattle housing project aimed at Native Americans is decorated with images from the 1865 city ordinance that expelled Indigenous people from the city. 

Photo Courtesy Chief Seattle Club

The building is named ʔálʔal, which means “home” in Lushootseed, a Native American language of the Coast Salish people in the Seattle area. (It’s pronounced “all-all.”) Set to open in October 2021, the eight-story housing project will be built with the housing needs of one distinct community in mind — Native Americans, who in the Seattle area are seven times more likely than whites to be living in homelessness, according to a 2017 Seattle Human Services report.

Most of the building’s 80 studio apartments will be for the homeless, with 10 reserved for veterans and another 10 for extremely low-income households. Each of the building’s floors will be named after traditional medicines, such as Sage and Yarrow Root, and covered in Coast Salish art. The ground floor will feature a traditional Native café, resourced by a local farm. There will also be a primary care health clinic run by the Seattle Indian Health Board. Outside, a 25-foot wooden statue of a Native mother with her hands raised will welcome residents and visitors.