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Kalispel breaks ground on Young People's Place

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USK, Wash. - The Kalispel Tribe broke ground July 2 on a new building that will be dedicated to serving young people in need of emergency foster care.

The Young People's Place will provide the facilities to foster, nurture and mentor youth. It will serve both tribal and community purposes. It's the latest development in a series of developments that are rapidly improving life on the Kalispel Reservation.

The tribe is small, numbering only 393 members, and the reservation measures about a mile wide and nine miles long along the Pend Oreille River, part of the tribe's ancestral homeland. It has progressed rapidly in recent years toward its goal of self-sufficiency. In 1965, just two houses had running water and one telephone serviced the entire tribe. The tribe looked to innovative ways to create opportunities for its members. Northern Quest Casino provided funding for Camas Institute, now Camas Path, which in turn provided direction and supervision to improve a variety of problems. Student enrollment in college has increased dramatically, counseling is alleviating drug and alcohol problems, and the tribe is moving rapidly forward.

A massive hotel complex and casino enhancement was recently announced, and a large wellness center will open in the next few months.

The Young People's Place is another step in that upward progress, and ''will reflect the spirit and culture of the Kalispel Tribe,'' according to a press release.

''As a tribe, we understand that our children are our future,'' Business Council Member Ray Pierre stated. ''We are happy to invest in our young people now so they will be successful later.''

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The facility will be operated by the Kalispel Tribe's Behavioral Health Department, which is headed by Ricki Haugen. Matthew Wareham works in that department in the position of licensor. One of his tasks will be to ensure that all the regulations will be met as required by the state.

Wareham explained how the facility will operate once it opens. ''Let's assume a situation where the parents get in trouble with the law and they have two kids. We get a call from Indian Child Welfare asking where the kids can be placed. We'll put them in The Young People's Place and if we can't find a placement home within a couple of weeks they'll remain there until we can find a home for them. It's my job to find a home and license the home so they can take the children in.''

Wareham went on to explain that youngsters, by law, would be housed there for a maximum of 90 days, ''but the sooner we can find them a home the better. Our main goal is family placement and tribal placement with aunts and uncles, cousins, family members. I must ensure their home is suitable for the placement.''

Plans call for furnishing and decorating the facility in a culturally related way. Negotiations are under way with an American Indian company that manufactures furniture that's culturally related. ''We'll get artwork and make it feel really Native,'' Wareham said. ''It's right here, within the community, and they can visit the family and feel right at home. We're going to furnish the place with a home-type feeling for the children.''

The focus will be on family, wellness, health and unity, with an emphasis on helping children without a safe place to live by giving them a place to call home and strong role models to guide them. A manager will likely be hired after the first of the year. Supervisors for each shift, a receptionist and weekend parents will bring the staff to about seven or eight in total, which doesn't include the behavioral staff and medical people that will be there periodically. The completion date is estimated to be about a year away.

The facility will measure 5,500 square feet and contain 12 beds for young people, bathrooms and a large living room. One room will be set up with a crib for an infant. It will also include health care space, offices, a library and an indoor recreation center facing the Pend Oreille River, along with such amenities as kitchen and laundry rooms.

The project is supported by a Department of Housing and Urban Development ICDB Grant.