SF Housing Authority rejects family for being Indigenous


by Cayley English in collaboration with Myron Standing Bear and Marlon Crump for Indigenous Peoples Media Project of POOR Magazine

“I have been working in the Housing Authority for over 20 years. We do not work with Indians, Indian tribes or the Indian Child Welfare Act. Never have … never will,” said a case worker at the San Francisco Housing Authority to Myron Standing Bear, father of two and Native American social worker, who repeated the words of rejection to POOR Magazine’s Indigenous News-Making Circle. This horrible sentence launched his family’s journey to their current state of homelessness.

Mr. Standing Bear, who suffers from congestive heart failure, has been living out of his car with his two disabled teenage sons, who like him are members of the Oglala Lakota Sioux Nation. He was granted guardianship of his two sons by his tribe, a sovereign nation located in South Dakota, under the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). The ICWA is a federal law that seeks to keep American Indian children with American Indian families. Congress passed ICWA in 1978 in response to the extremely high number of Indian children being removed from their homes by both public and private agencies.

In August of 2009, the family was informed their Section 8 voucher application had been approved. They had been on the list for 11 years. Upon finding a home, however, they were told by their worker that they were immediately being taken off of the Section 8 housing list, where they had reached rank No. 1, and put on the public housing list, where they are currently No. 564.

On Sept. 16, 2010, a meeting took place between Mr. Standing Bear, two San Francisco Housing Authority administrative officials and an advocate for the San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness. At this meeting, he was told by one of the officials that none of his supporting documents that were issued to him through the Sioux tribal government were “legal and binding.” This included his documentation of guardianship, a letter of recognition by the Oglala Lakota Sioux Nation and even a will signed by three witnesses – licensed attorneys with a notary seal. The terms of his will were that Standing Bear will have guardianship of his two sons until their 21st birthday.

Because of this denial of services based on discrimination by the Housing Authority, he and his two sons have been forced to live in a car.

As I listened to the horrible tragedy of Myron, I was reminded of my great grandfather, who is member of the Sioux Nation and how the history and herstory of Native peoples in the U.S. is riddled with struggle, theft and resistance and how we must advocate outside and around all of these government systems of oppression if we want to get any justice. At POOR Magazine we have implemented the U.N. Declaration on Indigenous Peoples as a resistance document for Native peoples struggling with false borders, globalization and the abuses of the rights of Indigenous peoples across Pachamama in poverty.

“I have been an advocate for my people for the last 17 years. I know what my rights are, and yet it seems like I can’t get any justice.” Myron’s voice faltered as he concluded, “I am only trying to get the basic human right of housing for my family.”

Read more about issues of poverty and race written by the people who face them daily at POOR Magazine/POOR News Network, www.poormagazine.org.


“Myron Standing Bear called me today,” wrote Marlon Crump on Tuesday, Oct. 26, “and his health is getting worse. The way he sounded, amidst his gratitude to us, I am under the impression that he is taking a turn for the worse. At our HEAL group, we said a group prayer for him. Yesterday, I drafted a document that should anything happen to him, we would retain the right to continue his complaint.”

Readers are urged to call the office of San Francisco Housing Authority Director Henry Alvarez at (415) 715-3284 and ask that they immediately house this family.


  1. Do these folks in San Francisco not realize that they are required by US FEDERAL LAW to recognize the Indian Child Welfare Act.

  2. Our taxes go to help our country, including our fellow man. Refusing to help one particular person will not lower your taxes. And yes, if my taxes help this man and his children – then I will sleep better at night. I'd prefer my hard earned money actually help people and not line a politician's pocket.

  3. This is evil.

    I am an Afrikan woman. I spent 15 years on the waiting list in Oakland, so I know exactly how it feels to have dreams of just having a secure roof, and a door that no one but you can come through, a roof that stays the same for more than one to three days, somewhere to put your belongings that is secure, a bathroom to yourself, a place that is clean, dry, yours, and controlled by you, a place to buy, store, and cook your own food…

    At that time, I had been homeless for 4 years, and had just secured residence in a hotel, because I finally nearly lost my mind in front of someone who was utterly shocked paid for a room for me. I was in the 900s, at the very bottom of the list.

    At that time though, if you were interviewed by a social worker and deemed to have been made homeless by (1) Natural disaster (2) Death in the family (3) Life threatening living conditions (4) Had children who were homeless. If you were disabled as well, you definitely got bumped up to the top of the list.

    I am/was disabled, had one child, I had suffered and was made homeless by a death in my family, and was definitely living in life threatening conditions. That was when there were still social workers attached to Section 8. I got very lucky and got a social worker who was Black (which at that particular point in time, mattered) and who seriously advocated on my behalf.

    I am not surprised that the SF Housing Authority is racist and blatantly discriminatory. Lynda Carson writes very cogent articles and distributes up to the minute information about the corruption that exists within housing authorities, and the horror stories of people being kicked out of their homes and/or off of their vouchers.

    And regardless as to how I feel about the fact that certain Indigenous People of the Western Hemisphere were enslavers of AFRIKANS according to the Willie Lynch paradigm what is happening to this man and his children is still evil.

    As most who read this newspaper know, the name 'Indians' is European conquerors' terminology for all Indigenous People of the Western Hemisphere.

    It was developed as a one size fits all white supremacist nominative for all Indigenous People when a certain lost, desperate, dis-eased, discoverer of nothing, genocidal, enslaver of AFRIKAN Peoples named Cristobal Colon [C. Columbus] named and 'claimed' them thus, as his property and for the glory of Europe, chiefly Spain, and/or whomever was paying the highest, thinking he had sailed into the East Indies.

    Thus began enslavement capitalism.

    I have no idea how to help Myron Standing Bear.

    If I did, I would surely let him know.

    • Its AfriCan with a "C" you bloody tart.
      Now give the poor Abo and his two gimp children a place to live already you heartless pricks.

      • WOW, I don't know what boat your ancestors came over on, but you can get on a boat right back! MY ancestors were here first and we will be here after you are all long gone. You are just like every other racist bigot..so just leave already.

        • How is Maliaka racist what she said is true and she's not attacking your
          people. It's the Govt of this nation that took your land away from you that's your enemy.

      • its not neccesary to make derogatory remarks! do your home work on Afrikan culture, you'll learn something if you open your mind…..

    • Sister, you're helping Brother Standing Bear by tuning into his plight and sharing your personal struggles with/against this wicked system of ours. I currently live in Los Angeles, the city of lost angels, and there are more band-aids given out here for huge wounds than a lil' bit. Food, clothing, shelter – freedom, justice, and equality. These things can only be achieved thru knowledge, wisdom and understanding. Without justice there is JUST-US; and we need to fight against these injustices until this evil empire begins to UNDERSTAND that we (the Indigenous; people of color) are human beings just like (if not better) than them.

    • Malaika Kambon is correct that some of the assimilationist tribes in the southeast *did* enslave African people in their pursuit of whiteness. She has every right to feel conflicted about those Indigenous Nations.

      However, it must be pointed out that Mr. Standing Bear is from the Oglala Sioux tribe: a plains nation that never enslaved African people. In fact, the plains nations, including the Sioux peoples frequently gave refuge to escaped slaves before the US Civil War.

      So while I understand her conflicted feelings about some Native nations, Mr. Standing Bear himself does not come from any of those particular people.

  4. The US Govt. just sent another $2 billion to Pakistan. For what? To kill more people? That money could have been better spent helping the legion of homeless people like Mr. Standing Bear. What the fuck is wrong with this country? The rich getting richer, the poor continue to suffer and nobody cares. Nobody tries. I am ashamed to call myself a "human" being! :(

    • Don't get up set at "YOU" you have nothing to do with this issue,,, Call the Agency who is doing this to this Family and ask them to change their tone on Humans who need the help… This is a hate crime and they should be charged with one I feel…

  5. I plead for justice. I plead for humanity. I plead for families. Can we not end injustice and disparity? It cannot cost so much as the ignorance that is proclaimed in the name of money or self-righteousness.

  6. OMG! I am mortified! This is ridiculous! I do not understand how America is called the land of opportunity when we can't lift a finger to help our own. But, we will have commercials about helping children and their parents in other countries. We need to help our OWN people first, regardless of their ethnicity!

  7. Shame on them! Sounds like a good case for discrimination to me. Such inequity towards our Indigenous brother and his family while the "haves" raise their hand against the "have nots."
    I also plead for justice & humanity.

  8. This Country has evil people who creates evil policy. This Govt is ran by Corporate America who is only concern with their pockets. Its been that way since this country was so-called discovered.

    If you don't have family support with housing and food your up the creek w/o a paddle

  9. Its a shame, now we will hear ridicules from heartless individuals. I too was homeless and when it was my turn to get housing, (I finally made it to #1 status), housing commissioner told me "I could not get a house because my children were now adults. I called the housing director and said I was going to file a discrimitory lawsuit on housing and this was on our sovereign nation "the good ole reservation". I was given a 2 bedroom home. As far as the "Land of opportunity" only applies to the immigrates and the other countires that so gladly harm our US Citizens.

  10. This entire situation is beyond comprehension. This man has congestive heart failure!! That makes him handicapped/disabled. His sons are both disabled!! I certainly hope & pray that the right person sees this article (preferrably a REALLY GOOD LAWYER) and steps up to the plate to help Mr. Standing Bear & his family. They will be in my prayers….I will also keep that moron of a bureaucrat in my prayers as well, that his blindness/hate is removed!!

  11. I feel the same way, Cher. Myself, and my colleagues at POOR Magazine/PNN have had numerous complaints of discrimination, racism, etc, etc from people regarding the San Francisco Housing Authority. It is ridiculous and it is SO disgusting that it took an article to get a response from the Housing Urban and Development regarding Standing Bear's situation.

    Even so, we're committed to ensure that he and his sons gets the justice he deserves. No human being, regardless of race deserves to be mistreated because one or more parties don't like the way a person looks. Unfortunately, it happens 24/7 and its one of the cores of what we do. When they do their worst………we'll do our best against their worst.

  12. Just to add to my last comment why should Mr. Standing Bear have to ask for housing or any kind of assistance

    It should be an automatic given after all he is the Aborigine of N. & S.Western Hemisphere

    • No you dont know what you are talking about….its like that for native american everywhere they are, cause for the most part they are very proud people and dont cry and conpliant about the past like other races do everyday. We got are land taking but that was 500 years ok fine. Give us housing other then our treatys on reservation land. Not all native people have reservation land. Do some research first on modern day life of native people, not much has changed in 500 years

  13. If him and this family were another race he would of not had to wait that long to even go up for the voucher, probably would have to even wait a year. It took my mom 7 years to get a public housing and other people were only on the list for 3 – 5 months. We live in sacramento and we are native. I thought that HUD housing was for Vets and natives anyways. Fire them all and pull some voucher for that other race and see how fast this goes to court

  14. politics always discriminates against native people, and always will. the houseing authority is above the law and can do what they wish

  15. I live in Australia where there’s also been much trouble in the past with regard to Indigenous housing but like I said…that was IN THE PAST. In this country it is actually AGAINST THE LAW to discriminate in any way to the Native people of Australia. San Francisco needs to learn from Australia obviously. THIS IS BLATANT DISCREMINATION AND UNACCEPTABLE. America is SUPPOSED to be “The Land of the Free” WHAT A JOKE!!!!

  16. I am appalled that this happened to this family. I work for a local Native American Tribe and have learned a few things about what's "out there" for the Native American people. I think that certain things that are available for Tribal members who are indigenous to CA may not be available to Tribal members to Tribes who are based outside of CA. Because I don't live or work in the San Francisco Area, I'm not familiar with what's available there. However, I do know some people who might know. I would recommend that Mr. Standing Bear go to the local Native American Clinic. I did a quick search and found that there's one at 160 Capp Street in San Francisco. I would suggest that he talk to someone in the Family & Child Guidance Center. Next, Mr. Standing Bear might want to contact his local "Regional Center". I looked it up and here's it's contact info.: 875 Stevenson Street – 6th Floor / San Francisco, CA 94103 / phone (415) 546-9222 / Fax: (415) 546-9203. I'm not sure if his children would qualify for services because I don't know the nature of their "disabilities".

    I hope that the above information helps. I will contact people that I know to see what information they might be able to give me. I'll post what I find here. Mr. Standing Bear & his family will be in my prayers.

  17. Ive seen immigrants come here with suitcase in hand and go right to the welfare office and get everything, healthcare, wic, foodstamps, cash and a nice apartment.
    Then more &more come in, and they do the same. It ends up with 20 people living in one apartment, then you see them driving new cars! They really learn quick how to work the system!
    While all along Native Americans are living on Resevations aka Prison Camps, or in their cars, trying to survive!
    These damn politicians are all liars and crooks who only care about how much of a yearly wage bonus they will get! There is NO justice for All. Its all Bullshit!

  18. DAMN! I hate a system that throws a rock then hides its hand. Glad to see that this Native Brother's plight made it to the eyes and ears of African-American people. There is freedom, justice, and equality in numbers – lets spread the word and rally against this nonsense! If only the T.V. news media had the balls to jump on this…

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