TULALIP — Before the pandemic, over 100 out of roughly 5,000 Tulalip Tribal members reported housing instability.
Then, the tribes drew up plans for permanent supportive housing, a community called the Village of Hope. This fall, 17 tiny homes are set to open on Mission Hill Road, next to the tribes’ main shelter space.
The one- and two-bedroom tiny homes are equipped with kitchens and bathrooms. Residents will have access to shared laundry, computers and a large kitchen in the community building.
The majority of residents will be referred to the village through child welfare services, wellness court and behavioral health treatment programs.
“We found that the greatest needs were young moms and parents who were experiencing addiction and then going to treatment who didn’t have a safe place to come back to and reunite with their young kids,” said Teri Nelson, executive director of tribal services. “We designed with them in mind.”
Many of those seeking help through the tribes’ wellness programs are living with intergenerational trauma, vice chair Misty Napeahi said earlier this year.
For hundreds of years, Native Americans have been subject to settlers’ purposeful and systematic attempts to assimilate, eradicate and displace them. Now, their descendants live with “a legacy of chronic trauma and unresolved grief across generations,” according to a large body of research.
Reconnecting with culture, land and community can be a meaningful way to heal, researchers say. Cultural connection is a pillar of the tiny home community. Monthly culture nights will feature “Tulalip cooking,” Lushootseed language classes, storytelling, regalia-making, cedar artwork and drum making.
Residents will be encouraged to participate in annual cultural activities like a canoe journey and the salmon ceremony. That cultural connection will go hand-in-hand with mental health support.
Each household will be assigned a case manager who will meet with them at least once a month to ensure they are meeting their goals. Residents can get money for college tuition and help with continuing education programs like GEDs or vocational training. They’ll also have access to chemical dependency and mental health counseling, parenting support, medical care, and cultural programming.
The village is an extension of the tribes’ main shelter, which opened in 2006, Nelson said. Many who have passed through the shelter are now living in stable housing while working or in school.
Tulalip tribal member Erika Moore learned about the shelter when she was in wellness court and had nowhere to go. She had lost her job and friends.
“Because of the shelter, I was able to attain those things within a short period of time,” she said in an interview last year.
Sarah Reeves, a Tulalip tribal citizen, said she came home for chemical dependency treatment. The shelter helped Reeves rebuild — from no car, no license and no credit. It helped her become self-sufficient.
There are many “success” stories, from the program Nelson said. But there has hardly been enough space.
In 2019, the tribes’ child welfare division reported 68 families with “housing challenges,” the main shelter had eight households on the wait list, and the housing department had 135 households on theirs.
The number of people in search of stable housing has grown in Snohomish County since before the pandemic.
The tribes’ housing department provides vouchers for those looking for housing, both on and off the reservation. Applications opened last week, and as of Thursday, 52 people had applied.
The tribes were able to offer these tiny homes with $2.7 million from the state Department of Commerce, $1.13 million from the tribes’ charitable foundation and over $370,000 from the tribal government. Tribal gaming revenue will fund staffing, upkeep and programming.
“It’s meant to be empowering,” Nelson said. “This is their home. It’s more like a neighborhood kind of community. You have to have those good relationships, healthy relationships with each other.”
Isabella Breda: 425-339-3192; email@example.com; Twitter: @BredaIsabella.
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