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Updated: Jul 11, 2019

This week, Catholic Charities attended the Spokane Indian Housing Fair in Wellpinit, WA. The annual fair provides the residents of the Spokane Indian Reservation with information about rental and homeownership opportunities as well as other local resources.

The Spokane Tribe’s hospitality always creates a fun atmosphere for about 200 people who show up to the fair. They visit booths sponsored by local service agencies. Catholic Charities sent representatives from our Housing, CAPA/PREPARES, Senior Services, Emergency Assistance, Food For All and Christmas Bureau programs.

Kids enjoyed KERNEL activities at the Food For All booth.

But the highlight of the event was lunch provided by David’s Pizza! The Spokane pizza parlor sends its Pizza Response Team to serve up hot, delicious and free pizza to the attendees!

The youngest attendees get especially excited about the lunch menu!

The housing fair is just one of the many ways Catholic Charities partners with local American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) communities. We are honored to serve on the lands of the Colville, Kalispel and Spokane Indian Tribes. As a result, we have the opportunity to serve many members of those and other tribes in our region.

Native Communities Experience Health and Socioeconomic Disparities

Unfortunately, AI/AN communities have an acute need for Catholic Charities’ services. Historically, the federal government and Catholic Church have stripped AI/ANs of their cultural, natural, economic and political resources through institutions like boarding schools and removal policies. As a result, AI/AN people experience intergenerational health and socioeconomic disparities at a greater rate than other populations.

For example, AI/AN people are a small minority of our population (1.8 percent in Spokane), but in Spokane County they:

  • represent 8 percent of the homeless population;

  • lack health insurance at a rate of 8.8 percent (compared to 4.9 percent for whites);

  • live below the federal poverty level at a rate of 35.3 percent, the highest of any minority group and more than twice the rate for whites; and

  • in the United States, they experience the highest rates of serious mental illness and substance use disorders.**

Catholic Charities Serves the AI/AN Community

To decrease these disparities, Catholic Charities partners with Native organizations. Some of our programs seek to change the unjust systems that trap Native families in poverty generation after generation.

For example, our Rising Strong program serves families at risk of being separated by the foster system as a result of substance use disorders. The program also seeks to create systemic change in substance use disorder treatment so fewer families are separated. In partnership with the American Indian Community Center, Rising Strong reserves spots in this program for Native families, ensuring that this underserved group has easy access to the services that can help with healing.

All of Catholic Charities services are available to the AI/AN community. Our services located in downtown Spokane serve the large population of Urban Indians here. For example:

  • The House of Charity and House of Charity Medical Clinic is available to serve the homeless Native population with medical care.

  • The CAPA/PREPARES program offers gently used children’s clothing, hygiene products, maternity clothes, pregnancy and postpartum care items and other resources to Native parents of children aged 5 and under.

  • Catholic Housing Communities offers opportunities for AI/AN families to find affordable housing.

  • Counseling provides critical behavioral health services to AI/AN clients, regardless of their ability to pay.

These are just some of the ways Catholic Charities works to affirm the dignity of our indigenous neighbors. We look forward to continuing to bring hope to vulnerable members of AI/AN communities in Eastern Washington.

**Information gathered from the following sources:

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