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Tlingit-Haida Regional Housing Authority has received one of 57 grants awarded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as ammunition in the war against illegal drugs.
The $309,053 grant was part of $22 million handed out to Native American and Alaska Native communities.
"This is a competitive grant," said Tlingit-Haida spokeswoman Barbra Holian. "HUD has been giving them out since 1994 as part of a Drug Elimination Program that began in 1988. They are to be used to prevent drug use and crime and contain at-risk behavior by young people who live in Indian housing that is funded by HUD programs."
HUD specifies the grants can be used for things such as extra policing of housing, better lighting or metal doors.
"We're already doing all those things," Holian said, "so we plan to put the money into self-esteem building, life-skills training and job skills training ..."
Tlingit-Haida Housing Authority currently serves 778 children. "We expect to reach 550 youth and 170 adults with training," Holian said Tuesday.
The authority serves Juneau, Angoon, Haines, Klukwan, Craig, Klawock, Kake, Kasaan, Petersburg, Skagway, Wrangell and Yakutat. The three components of drug-use prevention Tlingit-Haida plans to fund, with their estimated costs, are:
Youth leadership training, $141,000.
Introducing the Helping Kids Succeed, Alaska Style program, $43,000.
Continued operation of the Boys & Girls Club of Juneau, $126,000.
Annette Ulmer, administrator of the grant, said Native youths in rural communities face roadblocks as they reach for the American dream. They have a shortage of positive local role models, although criminal models may be present. They lack transportation to training given elsewhere. They may be labeled as underachievers by teachers or peers. They often have low self-esteem or a negative self-image so they "don't see themselves as college material or leaders."
The grant will fund these programs for two years, Holian said.
"All of the things we hope to do with this money are aimed at giving Native kids in Southeast Alaska more opportunity, more access to training," Holian said. For example, through a program called the UNITY Network, youth councils help kids take pride in themselves, enhance their public speaking skills, design their own programs and activities for their communities, learn to accept responsibility and make a difference.
"We want to let (youth) know their community cares about them and allow them to see a Native person who has made it. We will provide them with an opportunity to see where they fit in the larger scheme of things and empowering them to find the path from here to there," she said.
Holian noted the Boys & Girls Club opened earlier this year was made possible by a 1998 HUD drug elimination grant of $181,000; the new grant will help fund it for another year. The club is open to all Juneau youths.