Shiprock housing units: ‘the light at end of the tunnel’<br>

Photo by Rick Abasta

The 58 new public rental units opened by Dineh Housing Inc. will be occupied by low-income families in Shiprock, N.M. The one- and two-bedroom units feature Berber carpeting, the latest building code compliance and carports to protect from the elements. DHI took the project from start to finish, spanning six years.

“Eleanor needs to be commended. The tenants need to be commended. The board needs to be commended. There has been a lot of heartache and tough times, but this day has finally come,” Ottley said.

Manuelito and Ottley combined their companies and formed Chuska/Mock Associates for the construction project to complete the new homes. Manuelito remembers becoming involved with the project at the turn of the millennium.

“In the year 2000, there was a Shiprock Chapter meeting. I met Eleanor there and we hadn’t seen each other in a while. She asked if I still did housing and said we need help,” Manuelito said.

Manuelito’s strong friendship with Eleanor’s husband Herman went back to the old high school days in Rehoboth. Eleanor and Herman Light were high school sweethearts and have been married for over 36 years.

Manuelito immediately identified the expertise of Ottley as a prime source and began making phone calls to get things rolling.

“I knew Mel (Ottley) for years and the expertise Eleanor needed was someone who could take over planning through development and on through construction,” Manuelito said. “They were little houses with little thin walls.

“Of course, these ECA homes were some of the oldest homes in Shiprock. The people who built the homes were from the uranium mines,” he said.

The newly constructed rental units feature one- or two-bedrooms, Berber carpeting, tiles and cabinets from Cabinets Southwest. Each unit also has a carport to provide shade and shelter from the elements.

Crystal Frazier, Miss Northern Navajo Nation, sang “Indian Maiden On My Mind,” a song about the loves gained and lost at boarding schools across the country.

Frazier spoke of the lack of respect the younger generation of Navajos have for school and housing. She said attending BYU and paying $400 per month to share a room was a stark reality for the reservation student.

“To have a new housing development and not have to pay the high rental costs is a blessing. I can’t stress enough to take care of your houses,” Frazier said. “Keep your house beautiful on the outside and the inside.”

For now, the board members and staff of DHI can breathe a little easier with the knowledge many Navajo families will soon be able to move into the newly constructed public rental units in Shiprock.

Six years may have seemed like a lifetime, but in the end, Light said it was worth the wait.

(Rick Abasta is Public Information Officer for Navajo Housing Authority.)

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