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The Seattle Indian Services Commission (SISC) initiated the King County American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) Housing Needs Assessment to fill gaps in data concerning the characteristics and needs of the Native population in King County and to support local programs serving King County’s AIAN residents. The Muckleshoot Tribe provided the critical financial support necessary to implement this ambitious and timely project. The assessment was also intended to support SISC’s eﬀorts to re-develop the Pearl Warren Building, located in the Beacon Hill Neighborhood of Seattle, into a large aﬀordable housing complex for King County’s AIAN population with onsite supportive services. SISC has envisioned that this new development would adopt a holistic model that addresses the housing, health, wellness, and educational needs of the AIAN population, including newborns, children, students, young adults, working adults, families, and elders.
SISC used a three-pronged approach to data collection: First, an intercept survey was administered to collect information regarding the demographics, employment, income, and housing situation of Native people who lived or received services in King County, or who had left King County within the past five years; the survey also addressed the use of and need for supportive services. Second, interviews were conducted with three service providers and a Native woman who had recently found housing after being homeless for 15 years. Third, a focus group provided insight into the specific experiences of Native college students at the University of Washington.
Key summary findings follow; results, visualization and analysis are included in the final report and handouts linked above.
Respondent Metrics and Housing Composition
- 447 respondents the survey screening criteria
- 65% of respondents were female; 29% were male; 6% chose non-traditional gender categories
- 33% of respondents said they or their partners are the primary caretakers for children under 18
- 22% of children in respondent households were under 5 years of age
- 18% of caretakers reported caring for 4 or more children
- Investing in affordable permanent housing with onsite wraparound services and cultural healing has the potential to increase stability and opportunities for employment; there is both need and interest among survey respondents.
- Increased earnings among respondents who completed higher education show that education has enormous potential to increase income and lower barriers to permanent housing; there exists potential for SISC to connect existing and potential students of all ages to relevant services to increase the rate of completion of higher education.
- Health and wellness services are the most used and the most needed services; this is an area where SISC could help direct people in need with existing services, support culturally relevant approaches and develop housing with wraparound services.
- Service providers noted that community gathering spaces, cultural healing and other social services, proximity to public transportation, convenient parking options, secured entry, and handicap accessible features are important components to incorporate in any new housing development serving AIAN populations in King County.
- Based on the level of interest in and need for culturally appropriate affordable housing for Native individuals and families, and the location of the facility near public transportation, employment opportunities and vital community facilities and services, a redeveloped Pearl Warren Building has the potential to serve as both a provider of needed housing and a critical hub for essential services for the Native community in the urban core of King County and the Puget Sound area.
- If provided a new unit in an affordable housing development:
- About one-third of respondents (32%) indicated that they would live alone; among these individuals, 86.2% were between 18 and 64 years old and 13.8% were 65 years old or older
- 22% of respondents reported that they would need a home with handicap accessible features (including a ramp, grab bars, and wide hallways)
- Almost three-quarters (74%) of respondents who anticipated a household size of three indicated there would be at least one child living in the household
- According to key informant interviews, most of the existing housing assistance programs and funding target families with children; there is currently a lack of housing services for other groups, including senior couples, single adults, students, etc.
Income and Employment
- 66% of respondents reported wages or self-employment income
- Median household income for survey respondents was $22,000; Median income for all households in King County: $83,571
- Those who have completed higher education earn a median salary that is $36,800 higher than those who have not completed higher education ($50,000 vs. $13,200)
- Only 30% of respondents reported having permanent full-time jobs, with 46% of partners reported to have full-time employment
- 19% reported being unemployed (King County unemployment rate is 3.4%); 36% of the individuals experiencing homelessness were unemployed; 12% of respondents with a permanent residence were unemployed
- 55.2% of respondents reported an annual household income of less than $25,000 per year
Housing Availability and Affordability
- 65% of respondents were be interested in living in low-income housing in King County
- Of those who had left King County, 33% cited housing in particular, and 37% cited affordability in general, as a main reason for their departure
- Of those who supplied both income and housing payment, 50% (98 of 195) were rent burdened (spend more than 30% of their income on rent or mortgage); 55% of renters (90 out of 164) were rent burdened vs. 26% of homeowners (8 of 31)
- Money was the top barrier for buying or renting homes. Respondents said they don’t make enough money for rent/mortgage (63%), have no or poor credit (50%), and can’t find affordable housing where they want to live (45%)
- Based on the reported median household income for respondent households, an affordable payment would be approximately $550 (30% of median household income)
- Almost 1/5 of respondents living in a permanent residence had been assigned a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher and 90% of those who had a voucher were able to use it
- Median rent in Seattle at the time of survey was $1,456 for a studio apartment and $1,633 for a one-bedroom apartment; 22% of respondents could afford the median rent payment for a studio apartment without being rent burdened (30% of their income) and 20% could afford the median payment for a one-bedroom apartment
Health and Services
- 25% of respondents cited access to better social or health services as one of the main reasons for moving to King County
- Medical (55%) and dental (43%) were the most frequently cited services that respondents currently used
- The top four services that respondents said they needed but were not currently receiving were all health/wellness related (Cultural healing 28%; Dental care 21%; Counseling 19%; Medical care 14%)
- 26% of respondents had started, but not completed, higher education
- 64% of respondents are interested in pursuing additional education
- Student focus group participants noted a lack of sufficient support for students in need of housing, counseling, medical and other important services; they recommended more support for Native students including housing in places more connected to their indigeneity and close to their classes
Connecting Service and Potential Gaps/Needs
- 20% indicated they are not receiving any services in King County
- 32% indicated they did not need additional services
- 12% indicated they are veterans, but only about 4% of respondents claim they are receiving veterans (VA) benefits
- 19% reported being unemployed (Rate for King County: 3.4%), but only 2.5% of respondents are receiving unemployment or worker’s comp
- One third (136) of respondents said they were taking care of children under 18, but comparatively few are making use of services for children and families
- 37% of current students are not receiving financial aid
- Of the 28% (119 respondents) without permanent housing, 35% are living on the streets or in their cars and 26% are staying in shelters (concern for safety of self (50%) and belongings (37%) are the most commonly cited deterrents to staying in shelters)
Eleven Native students participated in a focus group moderated by survey coordinators at the University of Washington on Feb 26, 2019. The discussion focused on Native students’ experiences in finding and securing safe, comfortable and aﬀordable housing in Seattle and the King County area.
- Students felt that their voices were not always heard on campus and that their community needed more representation
- Participants described how a lack of stable housing had caused high levels of stress and anxiety and brought some of the students close to dropping out; homelessness among Native students was more prevalent than school administrators and even other members of the Native community likely understood
- Students expressed a desire to live with fellow Native students and live closer to or more connected with their indigeneity; proximity to campus and services was also considered a critical feature of ideal housing
- Insufficient support for Native students from the university emerged as a strong theme; there was a strong desire for one or more “Native Counselors” to act as elders to whom they could always turn for support beyond the limited (and appreciated) existing Native staff and faculty on campus
- Overall, participants were unsure of which services were available to them, how to access these services, and the associated costs; none of the participants were aware of any on-campus resources or services for housing support
Key Informant Interviews
Survey coordinators interviewed representatives of three Native service providers as well as a Native woman who had experienced homelessness in King County. Interviews were conducted with Toy Rodriguez of the United Indians of All Tribes Foundation, Colleen Echohawk of the Chief Seattle Club, Norine Hill of Mother Nation, and Arlene Zahne, a Native woman in her fifties who recently ended 15 years of homelessness in Seattle.
- An increased cost of living is pushing Native individuals and families to South King County as well as the fringes of the County which results in isolation from services and the Native Community; this migration can also result in the loss of income of
- Interviewees indicated that the Seattle Point-In-Time Count of Homeless Persons for the City of Seattle and King County under-counts Native people experiencing homelessness; the City and County need to consult service providers to identify where Natives and other people of color live or stay in order to obtain accurate counts
- With so many families in need of assistance, funds to help cover move-in costs for low-income families have been depleting quickly: Mother Nation, for example, spent over half of its available funds within the first quarter of 2019
- Service gaps include: access to affordable housing, transportation to downtown services, mobile services to provide healthcare and other services for those farther away from downtown, childcare for Native parents, education and youth programs, and spiritual and cultural healing services from Native providers