Formerly homeless families and individuals, some who have struggled with addiction troubles, are getting a new lease on life with the opening of the Makah Tribe’s first permanent supportive housing development in northwest Washington.

Located in Neah Bay at the northwest tip of the continental United States, the 21-unit Sail River Longhouse Apartments, which was completed in July, is providing housing and a wealth of services for a vulnerable population earning no more than 30 percent of the area median income.

The 21-unit Sail River Longhouse Apartments in Neah Bay, Wash., serves residents earning no more than 30 percent of the area median income.
Jason Roberts, Makah Tribal Member The 21-unit Sail River Longhouse Apartments in Neah Bay, Wash., serves residents earning no more than 30 percent of the area median income.

Wendy Lawrence, housing director for the Makah Tribe, says the project stemmed from addiction being the primary cause for homelessness on the reservation. Members would go to treatment multiple times and would fall back into the same situation because they didn’t have a clean and sober place to live.

“In order for any of us to be successful in our roles or services, first people need to be housed,” she says. “For the recovery to be effective, they have to know where they are going to sleep every night.”

Through the collaborative efforts of tribal service providers and leadership, residents have access to health care, jobs, and counseling programs to get their lives back on track. The development also is located near the recently opened wellness center, where the tribe has invested a significant amount of resources and energy enhancing the services offered there, which include recovery programs, physical therapy, acupuncture, and behavior counseling.

“We wanted to try to have an impact and make change for the whole tribe and make these individuals healthy, prosperous, and productive citizens of our community,” she adds. “If we help one family become self sufficient, we’ve done our job. Just that first one can demonstrate that having the hand-up has worked for them.”

Built to Washington’s Evergreen Sustainable Development standards, the development includes a two-story, garden-style building with a mix of one-, two-, and three-bedroom units, a one-story longhouse-style community building, and a landscaped courtyard.

Lawrence credits the Makah Tribal Council and the tribe’s experienced partners in bringing the project to fruition. The $5.5 million development was financed with a $1.2 million loan from the Washington State Housing Trust Fund, $3.4 million in low-income housing tax credit equity syndicated by Enterprise Community Investment, a $500,000 Affordable Housing Program grant from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Seattle, and a $268,000 tribal investment.

The Sail River Longhouse Apartments is part of a larger mixed-income, mixed-use subdivision, which will provide much-needed housing on the reservation. As part of the 10-year plan there are 72 single-family homes, 16 market-rate townhomes, a community garden, and a community center. Thirteen families so far have moved into their single-family homes, and eight are in various stages of the loan process. The build-out of the subdivision is expected to be complete by 2022.