The NAYA center was recently designated an EnVision Center, giving them access to more federal government contacts.Oregonian file photo by Mark Graves, 2016

By Madison Smalstig | The Oregonian/OregonLive

Portland’s Native American Youth and Family Center was recently selected as a new EnVision Center by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The center is the first one selected in Oregon.

As an EnVision Center, NAYA will work with HUD to address certain local issues, such as Native homelessness and food insecurity. This designation does not include grant money, said HUD’s Regional Administrator Jeffrey McMorris, but HUD will use its connections to federal agencies to help provide new resources to address these issues.

“Our commitment is to make easier connections on areas that NAYA is looking to grow and expand partnerships with the federal government for the people that they serve,” McMorris said.

NAYA is non-profit that was founded by Native parents and elders in 1974 to serve the area’s Native American population. The center provides cultural and educational programs for youth and runs an alternative high school. It also provides a variety of wrap-around services for families needing help with food, clothing, domestic violence interventions and services for children in foster care.

In their application to become an EnVision Center, which they submitted in April, NAYA identified different local issues they feel this partnership can help address. In addition to homelessness and food insecurity, these issues include planning for a NAYA campus for the future, preparing students for the future, food production, Native sports and Native business development, said NAYA Executive Director Paul Lumley.

“I was so delighted to get the letter from HUD when we were selected,” Lumley said. “I was also heartened to learn that we are the first EnVision center in Oregon.”

During a virtual press conference about the designation, Lumley also discussed how the center has struggled during the pandemic to still provide resources during the community.

“I’m not going to lie, March 13 was a difficult day for NAYA,” Lumley said. “We had close our doors to the public and still stay open for business.”

Although the building has been closed to the public, the center, amongst other services, continued to provide over 2,000 meals a week for the past few weeks. The center also moved their high school to a virtual classroom and were able to provide a small graduation ceremony for their seniors.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, who attended the press conference, congratulated the NAYA center on their designation and thanked them for their work in the community, both before and during the pandemic. He specifically focused on their work providing housing and creating connections in the community.

“For many years my team and I have worked closely with NAYA to provide stable, affordable housing, increased permanent supportive housing options and reach historically underserved communities with culturally specific care and services,” Wheeler said. “NAYA remains deeply committed to our community and we’re both proud to be their partner and fortunate that they called Portland their home.”


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