The City of Albuquerque Office of Native American Affairs, with support from other advocacy groups like the National Native Women’s Resource Center, will host the Indigenous Housing Justice Summit at the Albuquerque Convention Center Tuesday, October 11. The summit will take place the day after Indigenous Peoples Day and aims to address housing insecurity within Indigenous communities.
Chenoa Bah Stilwell-Jensen, co-organizer of the Housing Justice Collaborative Group, said she was inspired to host the summit by voices from across the Indigenous community and to tackle the current housing crisis in communities. urban and traditional homelands – also known as reservation lands.
“…as well as shelters for those who have experienced domestic violence – from time to time in traditional homelands and in urban communities – as well as Section 8 housing, emergency rental assistance, transitional housing and home ownership,” said Stilwell-Jensen. “So really look at the full range of housing.”
The summit will be a free event available in person and online, and will allow leaders in the housing justice movement to learn from each other with the public. The summit was created after many people were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and experienced unemployment as well as a loss of housing, according to Stilwell-Jensen. Many of those seeking housing in urban areas like Albuquerque and unable to return home have been further affected by rising rents in the city.
“We have a large population of unprotected relatives in Albuquerque, and the majority of those who are unprotected are Native American, Indigenous, and we believe we need to come together to support them. The majority of these Indigenous people are women… It’s a really critical factor that this Gateway Center is a safe haven for these women,” Stilwell-Jensen said.
The federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program, which provided support to many Indigenous communities, ended in September, making the New Mexico state government the only resource for those communities. The summit aims to draw attention to that as well as rising rents, according to Stilwell-Jensen.
“Why don’t landlords allow Section 8 vouchers on their premises? We want New Mexico lawmakers to really assess how people are living, and if they’re not prospering, how is housing part of that problem? Where it needs to be addressed (is) by providing affordable housing, safe spaces, safe neighborhoods and really making sure that just because someone gets a pay raise doesn’t automatically mean their rent has to also increase,” Stilwell-Jensen said.
The keynote speaker for the event will be Navajo Nation Council delegate Amber Kanazbah Crotty, who advocated for housing on Indigenous lands and demonstrated support for missing and murdered Indigenous women and their loved ones.
“New Mexico has one of the highest rates of missing, murdered, and Indigenous people — Indigenous women and girls — and transgender, LGBTQ, non-binary people who are impacted by this crisis. And so we really feel that there are inequalities in housing that also lead to this crisis,” Stilwell-Jensen said.
Alongside the keynote, other panels will take place allowing many different aspects of housing to be discussed, from countries of origin to urban areas, with Stilwell-Jensen identifying the central theme as “housing as a human right man”.
“All these traditional houses were deliberately destined to be destroyed and not to exist in this nation because of colonization and genocide. And so for our communities to revitalize and see a home again as a safe and sacred space, whether in their traditional lands or in an urban area,” Stilwell-Jensen said.
The goal of the summit is to call on policymakers to take concrete action beyond memorial bills and support affordable housing, according to Stilwell-Jensen. There are plans for a future summit in April 2023 and the possibility of holding one in Arizona.
“I really think about bringing our hearts and minds together to really tackle this issue together; to increase the amount of resources, to increase the amount of advocacy to change these policies so that they better support people in our community. And also to draw attention to this issue for awareness purposes, but also for educational purposes. But also that it not only affects Indigenous people, it affects everyone — all walks of life,” Stilwell-Jensen said.
Maddie Pukite is the editor of the Daily Lobo. They can be contacted at [email protected] or on Twitter @maddogpukite