A large majority of Native Americans live in unacceptable living environments. The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development estimated, twenty-three percent of Native American homes experience problems in plumbing, electricity, and heating (azcentral, 1) The Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act was put into congress in 1996 and has improved some housing conditions on Native American reservations. The act is funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which has historically been underfunded. (HuffPost, 1) Many roles come into play when looking for a specific cause for the recent housing crisis.
The factors included are high poverty rates, high unemployment rates in tribal areas, and overcrowding.
The unemployment rate directly affects the problem of housing in Native American tribes. Native American incomes tend to be low and the rate of unemployment is extremely high. One source says, “ the unemployment rate on the Blackfoot Reservation in Montana has been 69%.” This is in comparison to the American national unemployment rate of 6.
7% as of April 4th, 2014, or even during the worst part of the Great Depression at 25%.” (Wikipedia, 1) With an unemployment rate as high as this, it is difficult to have enough funds to supply for things such as up to date utilities. Josh Leopold, a researcher for the Urban Institute stated that around 25% of the homeless are employed. When a quarter of people that have no home are employed, how can society expect Native Americans with no job to be able to supply a form of shelter? It is very difficult for Native Americans to get a job with many Native Americans too afraid to leave the comfort and safety of the reservation to find work.
Roberta Youman stated in her paper, “ In 1998, the average yearly income on the Pine Ridge Reservation was $2,600 84 percent of the residents were unemployed…” (Youmans, 4)
High poverty levels also limit the ability for proper housing on Native American reservations. The Washington Post published an article that stated, “ 66 percent lived below the poverty rate hundreds were homeless, and thousands lived in overcrowded or substandard housing.” (Youman, 4). These appalling statistics are proof that this is a serious problem for the Native American culture. According to the Henry J Kaiser Family Foundation, American Indians and Alaskan Natives made up 22% of the poverty in America in 2017, the highest percentage when compared to other races. The U.S. Census Current Population Survey stated, “The poverty rate of Native Americans in the late 1990s was 26 percent while the national average was 12 percent. In rural areas, the rate is 37 percent – three times higher than for rural white households. “
Overpopulation is one of the most serious problems Native Americans face. The General Accounting Office said that the issue of overcrowding is more severe for Native Americans then it is for the United States as a whole. “A study of overcrowding in American Indian and Alaska Native communities identified a lack of housing options as the main reason for the high incidence of overcrowding in Indian Country. (Youman, 1). The US Department of Housing and Urban Development set aside a sum of nearly $1 billion for Native American housing.” (azcentral, 1) The Native American housing authority is in charge of trying to fix the housing shortage, but it has built little to no new homes. The federal government is slacking in its efforts to solve the shortage of housing in Indian Country. This forces overcrowding in the homes of Native Americans. Forty percent of Native Americans live in overcrowded or physically inadequate housing conditions whereas the rate for the general population is six percent.” These conditions have been compared to the conditions faced by third world countries.
The conditions that Native Americans face are completely unacceptable and something needs to be done. Congress needs to stop just giving money to a helpless cause. $1 billion dollars was used for Native American housing and no houses were built. Instead, federal agencies should be in charge of building houses and making sure they are adequate for today’s standards. This would make it easy to make sure the money that is sent is spent on what it was intended for. More time and money should be used for creating jobs convenient for Native Americans. The unemployment rate is astonishingly low and this could help the Native American economy. More jobs would boost the economy in reservations and lower the poverty level at the same time. This would eventually deflate the numbers of overcrowding. Native Americans are also Americans, so it’s time they have the same rights and resources that every American citizen does.
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