Thursday, December 1 2022

The Chief Seattle Club opened the doors to ʔálʔal, an 80-apartment apartment building for low-income, homeless urban Natives in Washington’s King County.

ʔálʔal, pronounced “all-all,” means “house” in Lushootseed, an indigenous language spoken by local Salish tribes.

The nonprofit, which says it is “dedicated to physically and spiritually supporting American Indians and Alaska Natives,” announced the resort, built on what was once Native land, in a statement. January press release.

“Some of our Chief Seattle Club members have not had a permanent home in over a decade,” executive director Derrick Belgarde said in a statement. “?ál?al is their first real home in a long time. It is a place to live and practice their culture, to sing and bead, and to gather with other Indigenous people.”

All residential units are reserved for individuals and families earning less than $40,500, or 50% of the average income in King County, according to the release.

Ten of the units will be reserved for veterans, the Seattle Club chief said.

Designed by Indigenous architects, the building’s exterior is complemented by layered brickwork with Indigenous designs, while the interior features walls decorated with artwork created by Indigenous artists, according to the Chief Seattle Club.

The housing complex is located in Pioneer Square, known as the “Heart of Old Seattle,” according to the city’s website.

“?ál?al is on indigenous land,” Belgarde said. “Giving this place back to the natives is really powerful.”

“It gives me a chance to dream again”

There are an estimated 12,000 homeless people living in King County, 10% of whom are American Indian or Alaska Native, according to the Chief Seattle Club, “the highest poverty rate in all racial groups”.

Although they make up just 1% of King County’s population, American Indians and Alaska Natives make up 32% of its homeless population, according to the release.

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“Centuries of politics have forced natives to leave their homelands and settle in cities,” Belgarde said. “The Indigenous homelessness crisis is the result of American policy.”

“This is a crisis that must be resolved with culturally appropriate solutions,” he said. “The data is clear. Long-term success rates are higher when people are served by members of their own community.”

The building is expected to house nearly 100 people, with each apartment costing between $200 and $300 a month, CNN affiliate KING-TV reported.

Maurro Romero is one of the new tenants of ?ál?al, which officially opened on January 24.

“It gives me a chance to dream again and believe in myself,” Romero said. “[It’s] a new beginning and a new adventure, a place where you are accepted for who you are.”

For fellow tenant Ashton Kellogg, who works as an actor and producer, ?ál?al is the first place he could call home, KING-TV reported.

But it means so much more than that to Kellogg and its community.

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“It’s important, because it’s the culture, and the culture here is dying,” Kellogg told KING-TV. “Help the natives have the art teacher or the art studio they can go to, the carver who wants to carve for the kids. Imagine we have a space, imagine the city gave Pioneer Square to the natives and that we have powwows on the strip there and it would be a tourist attraction all over the world.”
In addition to affordable housing, the 9-story building includes health care and social services that will serve more than 2,700 people each year, according to the Chief Seattle Club.

The clinic, operated by the Seattle Indian Health Board, will include six exam rooms, a pharmacy and a traditional healing space where people can receive “medical, dental, pharmacy, behavioral health and traditional medicine services,” the club said.

There will also be a cafe in the building that will serve food sourced from Indigenous businesses and roasters, according to the statement.

“Our loved ones on the street are living in survival mode,” Belgarde said. “We need housing to help people find stability. Once they have it, we can bring them a ceremony and they can start to heal.

“We are celebrating this opening, but there is still a lot to do.”

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