Study Looks At Native Americans

By Patrick Lohmann, Albuquerque Journal, N.M.
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Aug. 02--Native Americans are more likely to become homeless and be physically attacked on the streets, according to data culled from an Albuquerque mayor's office initiative that has provided homes to the city's most at-risk transients.

The study was released as part of an announcement that Mayor Richard Berry and leaders of area Native American tribes will soon form a task force to address the disproportionate number of Native Americans living on Albuquerque streets, where they are prone to violence and separated from services like drug and alcohol counseling.

The recent savage beating deaths of two Navajo men in a vacant lot near Central Avenue and 60th Street, which received national attention, has invigorated discussion of the trials faced by the homeless, and particularly those who travel from Native American reservations and end up on city streets.

The study found that, even though Native Americans make up only 4.6 percent of the city's population, 13 percent are chronically homeless. In addition, more Native Americans reported being physically attacked on the streets than their non-Native counterparts, according to the study.

The study considered 1,050 homeless people considered at risk and "medically vulnerable." Of them, 328 have been provided housing as part of Albuquerque Heading Home, and were provided access to employment and health, including mental health, treatment.

Of the 1,050 people, 136 are Native American. Of them, 36 Native Americans have been provided housing through the initiative.

The seven-page study was an analysis of a nonscientific survey conducted by Albuquerque Heading Home. It found that Native Americans experience worse effects of homelessness than their non-Indian peers in every indicator it examined, including that Native Americans:

Spent on average 7.7 years on the streets, more than a year longer than average;

Were hospitalized almost twice as often on average, at 3.3 times;

Were 15 percent more likely to be physically attacked, with 76 percent of them reporting having been physically attacked while homeless;

Are more likely to panhandle to make money; and

Have a higher prevalence of substance abuse issues, with 88 percent, which is 6 percent above average.

The survey also concluded that Native Americans are less likely to have health insurance, Medicare or Medicaid, or Social Security benefits. Also, it found that chronically homeless Native Americans are more likely to be women.

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Analysts suggested using profits from the Native American casinos and pueblos, which are federally funded, to fund resources, scholarships and programs to combat chronic "urban Native American homelessness," according to the study. The study said that Native Americans leave reservations and pueblos to pursue education, employment or other opportunities, a phenomenon analysts said is often not successful.

A Mayor's Office spokeswoman said more information about the task force, including how often it will meet and who will be on it, will be released in the coming weeks. An adviser to Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly, who heads the state's largest tribal government and reservation, did not respond to a request for comment Friday.


(c)2014 the Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, N.M.)

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