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NC Tuscaroras Question Exclusion From Local HUD Program

MAXTON, NC -- Members of the Tuscarora Nation of North Carolina want to know why they are being excluded from a federal program designed for all American Indians with housing needs.

The Tuscaroras have written to the Lumbee Regional Development Association, the group administering the Housing and Urban Development assistance program, asking for a clarification on the disbursement of housing money.

"Is the money for all Indians or not?" said Ms.Donnie Emanuel, a Tuscarora Nation employee. "Our confusion results from our experiences when we have tried to refer Tuscarora people to LRDA to apply for housing and they have been denied."

Since January, five Tuscarora Nation members have gone to the LRDA's Indian Housing Office to apply for housing assistance and all five were turned away, Emanuel said. They were told they could not be helped if they did not have a Lumbee tribal enrollment card.

The LRDA does share several of its programs with Tuscaroras, but the housing program is restricted to enrolled members of the Lumbee Tribe, said Leroy Freeman, LRDA board chairman.

"I want to make it clear that we have not tried to exclude the Tuscaroras," Freeman said. "But our hands are tied. HUD said this money was earmarked for the Lumbee people. We're prohibited by law from giving it to anyone that is not eligible."

If the association were to provide housing assistance to the Tuscaroras, it could lose the $7.3 million program, said Leon Jacobs, a former HUD director for Native American Programs and at-large LRDA board member.

"If HUD conducted an audit and found that we were funding projects that were not eligible, we'd have to pay that money back," Jacobs said. "I can see that being a real problem with HUD. There are Lumbees that are not enrolled, and we can't help them either."

Jacobs said HUD determines the amount of housing assistance based on the population of each tribe according to U.S. Census figures. He said LRDA was given the housing money based on its 40,000 members. That calculation does not include the 360 Tuscarora Indians in the area.

"The eligibility of each tribe is determined separately," Jacobs said. "If the Tuscaroras would like to participate in the federal program they need to approach HUD and be determined eligible."

Emanuel said Tuscaroras had been denied housing assistance in the past, but the group thought LRDA may have changed its policy after comments Freeman made publicly after the association reversed its decision to allow housing money to be used to repair mobile homes.

Emanuel said the matter was further muddled when Freeman wrote a guest editorial in the June 28 edition of The Robesonian newspaper. In the editorial, Freeman tried to counter criticism that LRDA had not helped other American Indian groups in the community.

"It is the policy of this agency to provide assistance to all Indians," Freeman wrote. "Our policy is to be inclusive not exclusive. We are committed to serving the health, education, general and economic welfare needs of the entire American Indian population."

Emanuel said there was a "clear contradiction" between Freeman's words and LRDA actions.

"We've brought this up because we want to know if what Mr. Freeman said is now going to be the policy on housing. We have a lot of questions and very few answers."

Freeman said he did not mean for the editorial to give the impression that the housing program was open to all groups.

"There are a number of joint programs that we share with the Tuscaroras," Freeman said. "There is the energy assistance program, the food program, day care and JTPA. Our housing program, however, is not one of those. I'm sorry that I was not clear on that."

Freeman said he planned to contact Tuscarora leaders about a joint meeting to explain how the housing program works.

"I wish LRDA had the means to help all the groups that need help, but that is just not the case," Freeman said. "The money was provided for us to help the Lumbee people and they must come first."

(From The Robesonian)

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