East Portland fair shows Native Americans how to go from being a renter to a homeowner

Food, cultural exhibits and entertainment were attractions, but what really drew nearly 450 people to PCC SE Center was the prospect of becoming a homeowner …

Between Native American homeowners Norman and Julia Red Thunder is MAYA’s executive director, Nicole Maher, along with youngsters John and Joyce Nelson at the East Portland Native American Housing to Homeownership Fair.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Not many Native Americans are like the Red Thunder family: Norman and Julia Red Thunder have been homeowners for years. John told us, “By not having to pay rent, we have had big savings in the long run, and we own something.”

At the July 29 event, we found a number of representatives from financial institutions, real estate, and other resources to help Native Americans go from being renters to being homeowners.

“There is a long legacy to our community of limited access to home ownership,” explained Nicole Maher, the executive director of the Native American Youth and Family Center, known as NAYA. “We believe that home ownership provides stable situation for families, youth, and our community. We need fair and equitable housing.”

In addition to the information, fry bread, being made by Tawna Sanchez, was another attraction to the homeownership fair.

Maher told us this is their first of such fairs, and they hope to make it an annual event. “There are 31,000 Native Americans in the greater Portland area,” she said. “People from more than 300 tribes live here. Yet, we have the lowest homeownership rate of any minority in Portland.”

Throughout the afternoon, business was brisk, as bankers, realtors and community agencies met with individuals and couples — showing them options for buying a home. Additionally, classes at the fair provided homebuyer assistance information and resources for renters with homeownership goals.

It appeared as if everyone who attended enjoyed the Native American meal prepared by volunteers, being served here by Jennifer Petrilla and Laura Booth.

But the afternoon wasn’t all business. Also featured were Native American dance performances, a guest drum, a free dinner, a kids craft corner, and raffle prizes. One lucky participant won $1,500 in down payment assistance.

For more information, contact the MAYA Family Center at (503) 288-8177, or see www.nayapdx.org.

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

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