HELEN, MT. – Native Americans in Montana face several housing issues, including discrimination and a tight housing market. Les Left Hand, program director for All Nation Youth Partners for Success in Billings, experienced this first-hand while looking for a home.
Although he used his wife’s maiden name, he found potential landlords were reluctant to work with him when they saw his last name on the application. However, he is aware that many of the people and organizations he works with have faced similar difficulties.
The costs associated with renting can also be a challenge. This is especially true given that census data shows that over a quarter of Native Americans live in poverty. In addition, young people have an even harder time finding housing outside of reservations due to a lack of financial stability. Left Hand said this results in families being pushed into tighter living conditions because family members are not turned away when returning home.
Unfortunately, analyzes of Native American housing issues are limited. For example, a study conducted prior to the pandemic showed that 16% of Native Americans reported overcrowding, compared to 2% of the US population as a whole.
To help those who feel discriminated against or have difficulty finding housing for rent, organizations such as the Native American Development Corporation offer assistance and support services.
Above all, Left Hand believes that resilience and endurance play a crucial role in overcoming these difficulties. He said it’s important to stay positive and find ways to keep going despite the difficulties along the way.
His experience has shown that if people refuse to give up hope so easily, eventually someone will be willing to open another door and provide better resources.
The struggles faced by Native Americans in Montana often go unnoticed, but understanding these obstacles allows us to emphasize their importance and work to provide solutions and lasting change for those who face discrimination or economic hardship when they are trying to find safe shelter.
Clearly, more needs to be done to ensure decent housing for everyone, regardless of race or ethnicity, but recognizing the seriousness of the problem is a crucial first step in making progress in this area while ensuring that no one is left behind in difficult times like these.