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Stereotype of the Month Entry

Another Stereotype of the Month entry:

Shelter rejects tribal IDs
Homeless grandparents slept in car

Kevin Graman
Staff writer
January 19, 2007

Two homeless Native American grandparents slept in a car one night last week in subzero weather after they were turned away from the Salvation Army Family Emergency Center because they lacked the required documentation of their identity.

Beverly and Darrell Azure are the latest to be told the shelter won't accept photo identification cards issued by the tribes, according to officials at the American Indian Community Center in Spokane. Sophie Tonasket, director of the center, said she knows of others who have been turned away from the Salvation Army shelter, called the SAFE Center, for the same reason. "These people are left out in the cold because they won't accept tribal ID, and that is a slap in the face of the tribes," Tonasket said.

Salvation Army business administrator Richard Silva could not speak specifically about the Azures because of privacy concerns but said the shelter must "safeguard the security" of the people it takes in, including children.

"In the process, we have to have valid identification," Silva said. "Identification that cannot be forged."

Beverly Azure, 49, and Darrell Azure, 56, arrived in Spokane on Jan. 11 with their daughter, Angel Patnaude, and her two small children in a Dodge Shadow driven by Patnaude's partner, Larry Decoteau.

All are Turtle Mountain Chippewa, from North Dakota, but they most recently lived in Gillette, Wyo. They were forced to leave, they said, when their apartment building was condemned.

"You can't find a place to live in Gillette, because of the coal boom," Beverly Azure said.

The family came to Spokane, where Azure has a brother, but she said her brother's circumstances are no better than hers.

Upon arriving in Spokane, Azure called the SAFE Center, at 1403 W. Broadway, and was told by its director, Laurie Meloy, that they would not be accepted without state ID.

Meloy declined to speak to a reporter, directing inquiries to the Salvation Army's administrative offices in Spokane.

The Azures said they do not drive because of health problems. She is diabetic, and her husband has lung cancer. They do not have driver's licenses, but they do have photo IDs issued by the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa.

"I've never had trouble before with our IDs. We've even cashed checks with them," Azure said. "It made me feel like we were being discriminated against."

Azure said Meloy directed them to the Indian center to obtain a state ID, which they could not afford.

With a little money sent to him by his mother, Decoteau found shelter for Patnaude, her children and himself the night of Jan. 11, but Azure said there was no room for her and her husband, who slept in the Dodge as the temperature dropped to minus 5 degrees overnight.

Since then, the extended family has been staying in a single room at the West Wynn Motel on Sunset Boulevard. Even after the motel manager cut their room rate in half, Azure said, they would not have been able to afford the room without the help of another motel guest.

That help has run out, and the family was to have moved out on Thursday. It was not clear where they would find shelter.

Tonasket said that since tribes are sovereign entities, tribal members should not be forced to depend on any state for proof of their identity.

Bob Peeler, of the Spokane Neighborhood Action Programs, which provides housing and emergency services to the poor, said agencies that receive federal or state funds are required to ask for ID and that SNAP often has to help people obtain such identification.

SNAP recognizes Indian ID cards, Peeler said.

But the Salvation Army requires a driver's license or a photo ID card issued by a state, a military ID or "things that are universally recognized as sufficient to be hired or receive government assistance," Silva said.

"You can't even use a tribal ID card to get a job. They are generated by a local tribal office, and there is no way to verify that that is their true name or that they are related in some way."

The Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services lists "Native American tribal documents" as acceptable proof of identity on employment eligibility verification forms. Federal guidelines also include an "ID card issued by federal state or local government agencies or entities, provided it contains a photograph or information such as name, date of birth, gender, height, eye color and addresses."

Said Peeler: "It is harder to get an Indian ID than getting a driver's license or picture ID from the state."

That is because only enrolled tribal members are issued such identification, said Carolyn Samuels Werre, homeless and family services coordinator for the American Indian Community Center.

On Jan. 12, Samuels called Meloy on behalf of the Azures.

Samuels said Meloy told her "this conversation is ended."

Silva said the SAFE Center is Spokane's oldest family shelter and the only one that accepts whole families 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Its first priority is to provide space for families with children, and secondly to married couples.

The faith-based Christian organization has to verify that couples are married and children are sleeping in rooms with their true parents, Silva said.

"Our job is to try to help people," he said. "It behooves us to do some sort of screening."


Shelter now welcomes tribal ID
Donors step up to help Turtle Mountain Chippewa family

Kevin Graman
Staff writer
January 23, 2007

An apologetic Salvation Army in Spokane is now accepting tribal identification at its family emergency shelter and has offered "to make things right" with a Native American family it turned away earlier this month.

"Tribal documents are now being treated with the same respect" as drivers' licenses, state or U.S. military identification cards, said Richard Silva, business administrator for the Salvation Army in Spokane.

Meanwhile, the Turtle Mountain Chippewa couple that was denied shelter on Jan. 11 has received an outpouring of help from concerned donors who read about their plight in The Spokesman-Review.

The family has had 10 days' occupancy at a hotel paid for, as well as offers of food, clothes and toys, according to Carolyn Samuels Werre, homeless and family services coordinator for the American Indian Community Center in Spokane.

"I think this opened a lot of people's eyes," said Samuels, who received numerous phone calls from across the country about Darrell and Beverly Azure.

As a result of the Salvation Army Family Emergency Center's policy of not accepting Indian ID cards, the Azures had to sleep in their car upon arriving in Spokane on a night when the temperature dropped below zero.

Samuels was not the only one receiving calls.

"We've had people calling us from all over the country and Canada from tribal members and concerned parties to chastise us, which we deserved," said Silva.

He said his office is drafting a letter, which it will send to tribes in the region, if not the nation, admitting to and apologizing for its oversight in turning the Azures away because of a flawed policy.

Silva said the policy of not accepting Indian ID came about "over the course of time because of the impression" that the cards were not uniform in their validity.

"That was not just wrong, it's illegal," Silva said, citing the federal government's acceptance of tribal documents in establishing identity for purposes of employment.

"Why should the Salvation Army (policy) be tighter than the federal government's," Silva said.

In addition, he said, other charitable entities, including the Spokane Neighborhood Action Program and the Salvation Army in Seattle has been accepting Indian IDs.

Silva said his office would meet with officials of the American Indian Community Center to forge a stronger relationship, to be sensitive to the needs of tribal members, and "to create the opportunity for them and other social service agencies to review our policies."

The Salvation Army in Spokane, he said, "will institute basic board review to make sure our policies are not discriminatory."

The Azures came to Spokane with their daughter, her children and partner after the building in which they were living was condemned in Gillette, Wyo., where affordable housing is scarce.

Samuels said the Indian Center would be working with the family to find them permanent housing.

Rob's comment
Not accepting tribal IDs is a variation on not accepting tribes. The Salvation Army recognized states as valid political entities but thought tribes were some lesser (less authoritative or reliable) kind of entity. In other words, the Salvation Army didn't recognize tribal sovereignty.

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Original text and pictures © copyright 2007 by Robert Schmidt.

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