Affordable housing for Native Americans in Irving Park

CHICAGO (CBS) — As Native American Heritage Month ends, we look at the troublesome issue of housing.

A University of Illinois at Chicago study shows half of Native Americans in Chicago are paying more than 30% of their income to rent their homes.

They are almost twice as likely as whites to be denied home loans.

We want you to meet a woman who has made it her life’s work to battle for housing equity for her people.

And she’s not just succeeding – she’s making history.

“This is going to be a beautiful site for our families, our Native American families.”

To Shelly Tucciarelli this vacant lot near Irving Park and Sacramento is more than concrete and rocks – it’s the future.

“We are going to be developing 45 units of 100% affordable housing and it’s going to be directed to our Native American community in Chicago,” she said.

Tucciarelli is a developer and member of the Oneida Tribe.

She turns vacant land into housing developments for Native Americans and low-income communities.

Her work already includes an apartment complex that’s underway in Aurora.

The Chicago site in Albany Park is a bit different for a very important reason.

“This is the first AFF housing that’s been directed to the Native American community in Chicago’s history. So, this is history in the making,” Tucciarelli said. “We were promised housing about 50 years ago, and it never happened.”

She says it still couldn’t happen without financial partners – including the city, private firms, and the non-profit Full Circle Communities.

Finding funding is a huge challenge for many small businesses and projects.

“One of the main things is access to capital. and trying to have that money to make the business work,” Tucciarelli said.

The Irving Park development will have gardens, community space, access to health care, and space for ritual ceremonies.

It was chosen so residents will be close to the American Indian Center, the American Indian Health Services of Chicago, Horner Park, and the Chicago River – all near and dear to this close-knit Chicago community of about only about 33,000.

“I think we’re a close-knit community because we’re a smaller community. We were invisible, staying together and making our voices stronger is important,” Tucciarelli said.

Shelly took us down the street to the Saint Ketari Center, where together, Native Americans practice their Catholic faith and their cultural traditions.

Director Jody Roy told us Native American teachings and ethics are important in everyday life, and business.

“There’s respect, humility, honesty, truth, bravery, wisdom. Those are all foundations that are morals and ethics of not only how we should treat each other but how we should run our businesses and our organizations. We’re all important and equal and have important roles,” Roy said.

Shelly Tucciarelli says her role is to continue her work. So, what does she want to see next?

“More housing. I don’t want this to be our first and only housing. To our Native American community land is everything.

Also on Shelly’s long list of goals – an incubator space to nurture Native American small businesses, including artists who specialize in beading, painting, and more.

She says she wants them to take their arts out of their homes so they can work together and show the world their talents.

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