BY DAVID MURRAY, March 17, 2016 Great Falls Tribune —Terry Mitchell talks on Feb. 10 about being homeless and the seemingly hopeless situations people find themselves in on the Blackfeet Reservation in Browning.
BROWNING – They call it Moccasin Flats, though the street sign marks it as 3rd Avenue Southwest. This neighborhood, just a few blocks away from Browning Elementary School, represents the worst of housing conditions on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, the Great Falls Tribune reported.

Empty, weed-filled lots separate the scattered mix of old trailer homes and wood frame houses. To keep the constant Rocky Mountain winds from peeling their roofs away, residents pile discarded tires atop their trailer homes. Boarded windows, missing shingles and torn siding offer poor protection from the frigid Montana winters. Stray dogs rummage through drifts of trash piled against scrap lumber fences.

It’s a Third World neighborhood in America; one seldom seen by the thousands of vacationers who breeze through Browning each summer on their way to Glacier National Park. Yet it’s repeated in hundreds of reservation communities across the U.S.

“It’s not unusual to find a grandma who has 15 people in her home,” said Chancy Kittson, director of the Blackfeet Housing Authority. “Oftentimes they’re all living hand to mouth, out of a soup pot, while at the same time trying to pay for their electricity to keep their house heated.”

A 2013 report sponsored by the National American Indian Housing Council found that 40 percent of on-reservation housing in the United States is considered substandard, compared with 6 percent of all U.S. housing outside Indian Country. Nearly one-third of reservation homes are overcrowded. Less than half are connected to public sewer systems and 16 percent lack indoor plumbing.

In recent years, the Blackfeet Housing Authority has doubled its efforts to improve conditions for the 2,700 people who rely on tribally owned housing. It has built or rehabilitated 155 homes in the last four years alone, but the housing shortage is so critical that even the run-down homes on Moccasin Flats are needed to provide some semblance of shelter for the many families hoping for a better future.

After more than two years of waiting, Blackfeet tribal member Nathan De Roche recently moved his family into a fully renovated home. Yet he recalled a recent visit to a friend whose whole extended family was crowded into a two-bedroom house.

“It was just packed, but they had no place else to go,” De Roche said. “They were all family: a grandma, a dad, his two daughters and one son. All the kids were married, plus their kids. There must have been about six adults and six kids in there. There had to be different families all staying in one bedroom.”

BROWNING – They call it Moccasin Flats, though the street sign marks it as 3rd Avenue Southwest. This neighborhood, just a few blocks away from Browning Elementary School, represents the worst of housing conditions on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, the Great Falls Tribune reported.

Empty, weed-filled lots separate the scattered mix of old trailer homes and wood frame houses. To keep the constant Rocky Mountain winds from peeling their roofs away, residents pile discarded tires atop their trailer homes. Boarded windows, missing shingles and torn siding offer poor protection from the frigid Montana winters. Stray dogs rummage through drifts of trash piled against scrap lumber fences.

It’s a Third World neighborhood in America; one seldom seen by the thousands of vacationers who breeze through Browning each summer on their way to Glacier National Park. Yet it’s repeated in hundreds of reservation communities across the U.S.

“It’s not unusual to find a grandma who has 15 people in her home,” said Chancy Kittson, director of the Blackfeet Housing Authority. “Oftentimes they’re all living hand to mouth, out of a soup pot, while at the same time trying to pay for their electricity to keep their house heated.”

A 2013 report sponsored by the National American Indian Housing Council found that 40 percent of on-reservation housing in the United States is considered substandard, compared with 6 percent of all U.S. housing outside Indian Country. Nearly one-third of reservation homes are overcrowded. Less than half are connected to public sewer systems and 16 percent lack indoor plumbing.

In recent years, the Blackfeet Housing Authority has doubled its efforts to improve conditions for the 2,700 people who rely on tribally owned housing. It has built or rehabilitated 155 homes in the last four years alone, but the housing shortage is so critical that even the run-down homes on Moccasin Flats are needed to provide some semblance of shelter for the many families hoping for a better future.

After more than two years of waiting, Blackfeet tribal member Nathan De Roche recently moved his family into a fully renovated home. Yet he recalled a recent visit to a friend whose whole extended family was crowded into a two-bedroom house.

“It was just packed, but they had no place else to go,” De Roche said. “They were all family: a grandma, a dad, his two daughters and one son. All the kids were married, plus their kids. There must have been about six adults and six kids in there. There had to be different families all staying in one bedroom.”

Source: Tribes struggle with decades of housing neglect | Montana & Regional | missoulian.com

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