DENVER — A first of its kind affordable housing and health clinic focused on serving the American Indian and Alaskan Native community is coming to Denver’s La Alma-Lincoln Park neighborhood.
"I just had to accept it and walk into a women's homeless shelter,” said Carla Respects Nothing.
Respects Nothing is part of the Oglala Souix Tribe.
She’s been sober for eight years and found herself falling on hard times. However, she got herself out of it when she landed a job with the Denver Public Library.
"I came with experience and, you know, that experience really helped kind of, you know, create a good environment in the workforce,” said Respects Nothing.
Now, she's part of a project that will help people like herself find a better life.
"For this to actually be our own safe space,” said Respects Nothing.
It’s a safe space that will be focused on serving the American Indian and Alaskan Native community. A 187-unit affordable housing facility will be built in place of a warehouse on Navajo Street.
Mercy Housing is collaborating with the Denver Housing Authority to make this project happen.
“It’s one thing to get folks housed, but being able to provide wraparound services is just as important,” said Shelley Marquez, president of Mercy Housing Mountain Plains.
Wraparound services will include an on-site health clinic made possible with the help of Denver Indian Family Health Center.
“We have a huge health crisis in Indian country. We can’t get our families healthy if they're dealing with issues where homelessness comes in,” said Adrianne Maddux, Denver Indian Health and Family Services executive director.
According to the 2022 Point in Time Count, American Indian and Alaska Native individuals make up 6.3% of homeless people in the Denver metro, while making up only 1.4% of the region's overall population.
The American Indian and Alaska Native community in the metro doubled between 2010 and 2020, and is far more likely than the general population to be living in poverty without a high school education.
“So funding is greatly needed for our services,” said Maddux.
Federal, state and local funding will be making this project possible.
While the focus is on the Native American and Alaskan Native community, units will be open to all applicants earning 30 to 60 percent of the area median income (AMI).
This project is something Respects Nothing can't wait to see.
"We still see ourselves as invisible in the community,” she said. "To have a space for us is so relieving.”
The project is scheduled to break ground in the summer of 2024.