Roots in behavioral health
In 1972, Native American Connections began as Indian Rehabilitation (IR), a grassroots self-help support program for Native American men who were homeless and struggling with alcoholism. Joseph Hayes, a recovering alcoholic, joined with his friends Lewis Blackwater and Jack Dewney, and started a drop-in-center and held 12 Step meetings held on the streets of Phoenix. By 1978, services expanded and IR established a permanent location in downtown Phoenix, and also entered into a behavioral health contract with the state of Arizona making IR only the fourth agency to be licensed by the state.
Dede Yazzie Devine joined IR in 1979 and quickly realized the need for substance abuse treatment and recovery support went beyond residential treatment for men. Under Dede’s direction:
- IR expanded in the early 80’s and began offering outpatient services for men, women and families.
- Residential Treatment for women was established at Guiding Star. With a focus on strengthening families, Guiding Star allowed dependent children to live with their mom while she completed treatment.
Today, 1,500 men, women, and children benefit from Native American Connections wide array of behavioral health services. We continue to expand our efforts to assist people in recovery by partnering with People of Color Network, the new Regional Behavioral Health Authority - Mercy Maricopa Integrated Care, and Tribal Behavioral Health Authorities from across Arizona.
Becoming a housing provider
Our interest in providing housing was a natural progression from the agencies’ history of providing residential and transitional living for individuals in recovery. After successfully completing treatment, additional support and care was needed in order to make sure individuals and parents with children could reach greater levels of stability and self-sufficiency. Finding safe and affordable housing often proved to be very difficult. Once again hearing a need, Native American Connections:
- Opened Whispering Palms in 1995, our first affordable housing community for 20 low-income families.
- Opened Stepping Stone Place in 1999 and provided 44 units of single room occupancy style living for extremely low income and homeless men and women including individuals with HIV/AIDS.
In 1999, Indian Rehabilitation became Native American Connections. The new name maintained our commitment to serving Native Americans while representing the wide array of services now being provided. By the end of 2008, NAC owned and managed 232 units of housing all located in central Phoenix. Despite the economic downturn, under Dede’s leadership, NAC took advantage of tax credit housing programs and committed to developing new communities with transit oriented and sustainable design.
- Devine Legacy opened in 2011, the first LEED affordable housing community to open along the light rail.
- Native American Connections committed to partnering with the City of Phoenix and the Valley of the Sun United Way to build permanent supportive housing for chronically homeless individuals.
- Encanto Pointe, opened in early 2013 and an expansion of Stepping Stone Place opened in the fall of 2013.
- HomeBase came under the NAC umbrella in 2010 and continued to provide transitional housing and day resource center for homeless youth.
With the opening of Urban Living 2 in early 2014, Native American Connections now owns and manages 459 units of housing at 10 housing communities in central Phoenix.
Commitment to the Community
Native American Connections has remained committed to preserving our cultural heritage and increasing opportunities for Native Americans. In 2005, Native American Connections joined with Phoenix Indian Center and Native Health to establish the Native American Community Service Center. This gave community members access to healthcare, behavioral health services, job assistance, housing services and cultural activities all in one location.
In 2015, Native American Connections will complete renovation of the historic Band Building at Steele Indian School Park. The Phoenix Indian School Legacy Project will be a cultural gathering place where the community can experience Native Foods, learn about the history of Phoenix Indian School, engage in arts, culture and music and learn about Tribal Tourism opportunities.