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

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.

The figure and the building are designed to send this message: “You have been out there struggling for so long, but in this place, you are going to find welcome, you are going to find security, you are going to find people who love you and appreciate you as a native person,” says Colleen Echohawk, executive director of Chief Seattle Club. Founded in 1970, the Seattle-based nonprofit works to support the city’s American Indian and Alaska Native residents by providing everything from food and housing assistance to legal help.

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