Fly Like An Eagle

Seattle debuts modular housing for homeless Native Americans

King County has an estimated 1,161 homeless people of Native descent. (Nitish Meena/Unsplash)

Eagle Village, a new pilot community in Seattle’s South of Downtown District, is the first transitional housing project in King County to go fully modular. At the heart of the community are six modular trailers, previously used to house transient Texan oil workers, that have been divvied up into a total of 24 self-contained, dorm-style living units. The units, each outfitted with a bathroom, kitchenette, and ample closet space, are geared to accommodate single-occupancy residents as well as couples and roommates. Pets are also allowed.

Even more impressively, Eagle Village is the first transitional housing project anywhere to exclusively provide shelter and related services to Native Americans, Alaska Natives, and Pacific Islanders experiencing homelessness. Completed last October, the $3.3 million development is situated on a parcel owned by King County Metro that will eventually be redeveloped for other purposes. The village, which features a medicinal garden and drum circle, began welcoming its first residents weeks later.

In total, Eagle Village has capacity for 31 full-time residents, all of whom, in addition to safe and secure housing, are provided with onsite support services from the Chief Seattle Club, the nonprofit spearheading the project alongside several county agencies. As NPR Seattle affiliate KUOW reported, 30 people, all of them trying to secure affordable housing of permanence in the near future, currently call Eagle Village home.

Providing what Chief Seattle Club executive director Colleen Echohawk called “culturally responsible housing” is a challenge that’s somewhat unique to Seattle and King County, where there are an estimated 1,000 homeless people of Native descent.

“We make up less than one percent of the total population and make up over 10 percent of our homeless population,” Echohawk explained to KUOW.

In a press release, King County executive Dow Constantine stressed the ongoing need to provide dignified housing to indigenous peoples experiencing homelessness:

“We know that people of color, and particularly Native Americans, are disproportionately represented in the homeless population, and we are committed to tackling that challenge. With our first completed modular housing project, we are partnering with the Chief Seattle Club to focus on providing safe housing and onsite services for urban Native residents. With Eagle Village, we are turning plans into action, and dreams into hope.”

While there currently aren’t plans to expand Eagle Village at its current site, King County will develop other transitional housing communities in Seattle and beyond. Like Eagle Village, all of these future sites will revolve around modular living units once used to house oil workers in Houston. In addition to the six converted trailers now housing the residents of Eagle Village, King County has purchased another 14 Texas-sourced trailers for $90,000 each, with the goal of generating 75 new housing units—units that have the potential to make a world of difference to those who live in them, even if they’re only there a short spell.

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