Empowering Families through Homes of Their Own

The Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians in Oregon sponsors a home visiting program called Family Spirit, a model developed by Johns Hopkins University. The home visitors provide information and support to families about child rearing and help parents set and meet goals for their families. A major issue for many young families is having their own homes.

“Eight out of 10 families that I have served have some sort of homelessness,” says Jessica Phillips, Home Visiting Program Coordinator. “They may be living with a relative or somewhere else where they don’t have their own space. A lot of them say they can’t be the parents they want to be when they’re living under someone else’s roof. They just want a little help to be able to be independent and live on their own.”

The Siletz Tribe home visiting program is supported by a grant from the Tribal Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting program, administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families (ACF). The Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians is one of 25 tribal communities participating in this federal program.

The home visitors work to connect families with the resources they need, which can be a long and involved process when it comes to housing. The options include tribal housing programs for families living on the reservation, as well as rental assistance and first-time homebuyer programs available in neighboring communities.

“I recently had a client whose roommate left the house, and the family was at risk of being evicted,” says home visitor Danelle Smith. “I was able to work with a couple of programs to provide emergency assistance, and my client was able to keep her apartment.”

Phillips has forged strong relationships with housing providers by serving on the board of Advocacy and Outreach Workers of Lane County. People from a wide variety of agencies attend monthly meetings to keep each other informed about housing and other resources available to families in the area.

Phillips sees housing as the launch pad for further growth. “Housing is a key thing that people need in order to move forward,” she says. “They become more independent. They feel more self-worth. One mother I worked with had applied for multiple jobs but was not getting any callbacks. Right after she got her own place, she got her first job. It could be a coincidence, but I think when you don’t have all of the stress and you have your own place, everything else kind of falls into place.”

As families move forward, they often need less help. One family had been unable to find a landlord who would rent to them because they had no credit and the father worked at a part-time, minimum-wage job. When the family made it to the top of the waiting list for rent assistance, they still could not afford the required security deposit and first and last months’ rent. Their home visitor was able to help them secure one-time funding from the tribe to cover the expense. When the father’s employer gave him a full-time job, the rental assistance was reduced accordingly. The father told the home visitor that while he was sorry to see their rent go up, it made him feel good to be able to pay the bills and provide for his family.

“Home visiting is more than just visiting the family,” says Phillips. “It is a very big support system and a way to collaborate with the community to give them wraparound services for anything they may be needing and a person that they can feel comfortable to come to with any concerns they may be having.”

For more information, contact Jessica Phillips at JessicaP@ctsi.nsn.us or 541-484-4234.

The Confederated Tribes of Siletz is a federally recognized confederation of 27 bands, originating from Northern California to Southern Washington. The home visiting program is offered to tribal families in an 11-county area in Oregon. More information is available.

ACF’s Tribal Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program provides grants to tribal entities to develop, implement, and evaluate home visiting programs in American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) communities. The grants are intended to help develop and strengthen tribal capacity to support and promote the health and well-being of AIAN families, expand the evidence base around home visiting in tribal communities, and support and strengthen cooperation and linkages between programs that serve tribal children and their families. Find out more about the Tribal Home Visiting program and grantees.

Last Reviewed: February 9, 2017