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Inadequate housing on reservations

 

Jomay Steen Journal staff - Posted: Sunday, November 1, 2009 9:20 pm

When it comes to housing, Fred Sitting Up compared the reservation he lives on to a Third World country.

In 1985, because of a disability — he was blinded in his right eye — Sitting Up says he was promised a house by the housing commission.

“It’s been 28 years, and I’m still waiting,” he said.

At the time of her husband’s death, Jessie Pulliam was forced out of government housing that she had called home for years. She now lives with relatives in an unorganized trailer court of nine trailers, two of which have running water and seven have electricity. Electrical cords strung across side yards power space heaters in the other two trailers.

“We struggle every day,” she said.

About a dozen people from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation gave testimony Sunday afternoon on the lack of adequate housing on reservations throughout the United States. It was part of a United Nations investigation on human rights to housing.

Raquel Rolnik, the United Nations Special Rapportueur on the Right to Adequate Housing, toured Wanblee and Porcupine before hearing testimony at the administrative building on the Oglala Lakota College campus near Kyle. It was part of Rolnik’s investigation of conditions in public housing as well as homelessness.

Ina Pacheco of Pine Ridge had received a 14-day notice to vacate her home at Cherry Hill, a complex that houses elderly and disabled people.

Pacheco, a single grandmother living with her daughter-in-law and three children younger than three years old, pleaded with housing officials and was given 60 days to find housing near her work, pack up her belongings and move.

Selected as a family for a proposed new home, she knows it won’t be built by January — when she will need to vacate Cherry Hill.

“We were homeless and will be again,” she said. “There is nowhere else to go.”

Marian White Mouse talked of her family getting a house, then having contractors build it on the wrong land. It took years to trade land for the house, but eventually her mother lost it at her father’s death.

“Adequate housing is a human right,” Rolnik said to the audience of 40 to 50. “We thank you so much for coming, and your testimony.”

Rolnik will visit with President Barack Obama on Friday, when she will talk about what she has seen of housing and homelessness in New York, Los Angeles, New Orleans and Pine Ridge reservation.

The information will also become part of a report to be presented to the United Nations in Geneva in 2010.

“We’ll tell what we have seen, and what we’ve heard, and what we know about housing in the United States,” she said.

Once reported, Rolnik believes it will bring change.

“All these things, I’m going to report to contribute to a better standard of living,” she said.

Contact Jomay Steen at 394-8418 or jomay.steen@rapidcityjournal.com.

http://www.rapidcityjournal.com/news/article_5317787c-c767-11de-9402-001cc4c002e0.html

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