TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — The Council of the Cherokee Nation on April 15 approved a proposal by Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. and Deputy Chief Bryan Warner to begin addressing homelessness in the Tahlequah area and to help construct a new ball field complex in the community.

The resolution authorizes Chief Hoskin and his team to negotiate a memorandum of understanding not to exceed $7 million on the infrastructure surrounding a crisis shelter to be located on land referred to by the City of Tahlequah as Phoenix Park, as well as the construction of new ball fields and other improvements at the city’s Anthis-Brennan Family Sports Complex.

“The issue of homelessness is a problem that impacts all of us,” said Chief Hoskin. “It is a complex and difficult problem that calls upon multiple governments and institutions to step up with solutions. Elected officials at the Cherokee Nation unanimously stepped up on April 15 to begin taking important action to address this issue.”

Under the landmark Cherokee Nation Housing, Jobs and Sustainable Communities Act, the tribe is investing $120 million to improve housing conditions and make community improvements across the reservation. HJSCA was amended in 2022 to include a provision for a $10 million crisis shelter.

Since 2022, Cherokee Nation’s anti-poverty task force has studied the issue of homelessness across the reservation, analyzed current strategies for addressing the issue, and identified the most promising opportunities to improve homeless conditions.

“The solution to the housing and homelessness crisis cannot be one single solution such as creating paths to home ownership, providing rental assistance, expanding low-income rental units, meeting transitional housing needs or providing crisis services. Instead, it has to be all of these options, it has to be a great deal more, and we must be bold in our willingness to address this issue,” said Chief Hoskin. “Tahlequah, our tribe’s capital city, presents a unique opportunity to construct and make available a crisis shelter, filling a gap that must be filled.”

Locating the crisis shelter at Phoenix Park would put the facility near the Tahlequah Police Department, Cherokee Nation services, and other services and employment opportunities that can assist those using the shelter as they transition to more stable living conditions.

Chief Hoskin anticipates the facility, estimated to be around 20,000 square feet, will be completed in 2025 and will be operated by an experienced third-party provider. Approximately 80% of space in the facility is expected to be reserved for citizens of the Cherokee Nation, and the remaining space available to others in need.

Under the plan, Cherokee Nation would take title to the 25-acre Phoenix Park for the construction of the crisis shelter and provide the City of Tahlequah with up to $7 million for expansion of the Anthis-Brennan Family Sports Complex located on West Allen Road in Tahlequah. The sports complex currently offers an all-inclusive playground, basketball court, bleachers, a football field, pickleball court, soccer and softball fields, and the city’s swimming pool.

“The expansion of the city of Tahlequah’s sports complex will be an economic boon for the city and, therefore, Cherokee Nation,” said Chief Hoskin. “This investment will generate approximately $1 million per year, meaning a shared return on the investment in seven years. At the same time, we have an opportunity to address a serious issue that many communities around the country are facing with housing insecurity. I want to commend the Council of the Cherokee Nation, which demonstrates time and time again a willingness to not only invest in our shared future, but to take on some of the most challenging problems we all face.”

The Council’s action on April 15 does not create any obligation on the part of the Cherokee Nation or the City of Tahlequah. The resolution authorizes Chief Hoskin to negotiate an agreement with the City of Tahlequah within the bounds of the resolution.

“Our pledge at Cherokee Nation is to be good neighbors,” said Deputy Chief Bryan Warner. “Our pledge to the Tahlequah community and to the Cherokee people is that if we are able to reach an agreement on construct this crisis center, we will operate it responsibly and with the best interests of the community in mind.”

Each individual facing homelessness costs a community an average of $35,578 each year, while the average cost to house them per year is approximately $10,000. Recent studies show Native Americans experience one of the highest rates of homelessness in the U.S.

If constructed, Cherokee Nation’s crisis shelter would feature beds for men, women and a number of family rooms to assist families who are facing housing insecurity.

“The City of Tahlequah is thrilled to partner with the Cherokee Nation in an effort to address a critical issue within our community. Through the guidance of the Cherokee Nation and the leadership of the City of Tahlequah we have what we believe to be a win/win solution to address homelessness,” said Tahlequah Mayor Suzanne Myers.

Myers said the sports complex discussion could also help address a desire by the city to increase tax revenue.

“We believe these opportunities will result in an excellent facility to address the needs of the homeless while the addition and renovation of the city’s Anthis-Brennan Family Sports Complex will increase tax dollars by attracting new businesses such as family friendly entertainment, restaurants, convenience stores, and retail space,” Myers said. “Families will be traveling to Tahlequah, capital of the Cherokee Nation, for competitive baseball and softball play for three to four days at a time. We anticipate these eight ball fields, all turfed fields, will allow for tournament play from February through October with our guests having an opportunity to take in all the cultural sights, the university programs, and during the summer months they will be able to navigate the Illinois River and Lake Tenkiller. In addition, all local families with an interest in their youth participating in baseball and softball will have that opportunity without the added travel costs typically associated with it.”

Myers said with Tahlequah City Council approval, the city plans to contribute between $2 - $4 million toward the ballfield construction and updates. These funds coupled with the investment from the Cherokee Nation would allow the facility to be state of the art, fully lighted with ample parking, concession stand, officials dressing room and lounge, restrooms and ample seating.