CHARLES CITY COUNTY, Va. -- Morgan Richardson lives on the same road where she grew up. She's now raising her children on land her family has owned for more than 200 years.
"My family has been here since the beginning," Richardson said standing outside of the Chickahominy Tribal Center in Charles City County. "When you're born into tribal communities, there's this level of closeness that [most] people don't get to experience."
Richardson stays close to her community by working with the tribe's housing committee.
Her team recently secured a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as part of the "Indian Community Block Grant."
To Housing Director Rufus Elliott, the money comes at a crucial time.
"There are people who are living in mobile homes in this area who are literally splitting apart at the seams," Elliott said.
Grant money would replace about 10 deteriorating homes and repair 40 others over the span of five years.
Families are eligible based on their annual income and the state of their living conditions.
Most of those homes being repaired or replaced, Elliott said, have been standing for decades. They are filled with multi-generational families who cannot afford to move.
"In our communities, because we've lived in, kind of, these marginalized, underserved communities for so long, it almost because normal to live that way," Elliott said. "Like the technical definition of overcrowding in housing sometimes almost seems normal to us, multi-generational housing where you're living with your grandparents."
Elliott called the assistance "life-changing" to a lot of families.
"We're over the moon excited as a team to be able to do that," Elliott said.
To current Chickahominy Chief Stephen Adkins, providing housing means keeping the Chickahominy living on ancestral grounds and preserving the tribe's culture.
"When people ask where you're from, I say, 'Right here.' This is it," Adkins said. "But I want people to have a sense of pride in who they are. I want them to be proud of their home. The places they live."
Years of slipping through the cracks to get enough funding to cover housing costs, Chief Adkins said, prevented that from happening.
"It turned out that we had a long list of people that had real needs, and we didn't have the funds to take care of them," he said.
Adkins said housing has played an integral role in his tribe's history, from his ancestors losing their homes to European settlers to housing being a cornerstone of the tribe's more-than-40-year push for federal recognition, which it received in 2018.
He said his grandfather, former Chief O.W. Adkins, would be proud of the tribe's work to keep the Chickahominy community housed.
"Today, to see us, with this grant to help improve the conditions of our citizens," Adkins said. "You know, my grandfather would be blown away in today's terms, just to see what we've done, actualizing that dream that he had all those many years ago."
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