October 9, 2018

Building relationships with Oregon Tribes

Last year, Oregon's Point in Time Count recorded that Native Americans are significantly overrepresented in Oregon's homeless population and the least likely to be sheltered of any community counted. Indigenous communities are facing substantial housing disparities in our state and we need to do more. As Meyer continues to work toward our mission of a flourishing and equitable Oregon, the Housing Opportunities portfolio seeks to understand the unique challenges that face our indigenous communities and what we can do to better serve them.

Although Meyer has funded Native organizations that work on affordable housing, such as the Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA), until recently we had never funded the efforts of Tribal Nations to house their members. Meyer's housing portfolio is committed to building lasting relationships with tribes in order to partner with them in their housing priorities, educate ourselves about Native housing issues and advocacy priorities, and understand the challenges of housing development and homeownership that many tribes face.

Earlier this summer, Meyer collaborated with the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians to convene a group of foundations and tribal housing representatives from across Oregon for a roundtable discussion about how philanthropy can support the ongoing housing work of tribes across the state. As a newcomer to the sector, it was intriguing to hear how disconnected many tribes felt from philanthropy as a whole. One person stated the impression that tribes were not eligible to apply for philanthropic support. It was clear that foundations must do more than just harbor the idea of engaging with tribal entities: we must actively work to earn a relationship of trust, respect and partnership.

The Housing Opportunities portfolio is making strides in our journey to support our Native communities, and the convening was just a start. In 2017, we joined the Northwest Indian Housing Association as an affiliate member and have attended several quarterly meetings around the Pacific Northwest. We continue to visit directly with tribal governments and housing departments to build relationships and understand their specific priorities. As a result of this focus, we have developed deeper connections and pathways of communications with tribes and began making grants to tribal housing entities: The Klamath Tribes through our Affordable Housing Initiative Systems Alignment RFP in 2017 and capital funding to the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians in 2018. We are so honored to have supported these projects, but we still have a long way to go to strengthen our relationships with tribes across the region and we are ready to learn.

–– Lauren