© 2024 Wyoming Public Media
800-729-5897 | 307-766-4240
Wyoming Public Media is a service of the University of Wyoming
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Transmission & Streaming Disruptions

Fremont nonprofit sets sights on building multi-generational housing on the Wind River Reservation

Two architectural mock-ups of the elder housing community. Both depict six A-frame houses and a circular central community building. One shows the buildings straight on, wihile the other depicts the building from above and off to the side.
Warm Valley LLC

Warm Valley LLC wants to help address the need for housing for Northern Arapaho elders and their families on the Wind River Reservation. According to a recent estimate from the Northern Arapaho Housing Authority, the area needs upwards of 400 homes to meet the needs of the community.

Warm Valley is designing a small-scale housing development made up of six A-frame houses and a central circular building for communal gatherings and cultural practices. The community is set to be built on land off of Highway 789, near the Wind River Casino and just south of Riverton.

An architectural rendering of the proposed communal building for the elder housing community. The image depicts a floor plan, a 3-D model, and an imagined interior of a ciruclar building with a fireplace, two commercial kitchens, and tall beamed ceilings.
Warm Valley LLC

According to design documents, each A-frame in the elder housing community will have a great room, a wood stove, a kitchenette, two bedrooms, and a loft. The community building will contain two full kitchens, a fireplace, a laundry room, storage, and two residences for those experiencing challenges with behavioral health.

“They're all going to be facing east,” said Johnna Arthur, the project’s manager and developer, to welcome the morning sun. “For Arapaho, we always depended on teepees to be our home, but they were mobile. This is going to last a long time.”

Arthur is Northern Arapaho and said the hope is that the community could “help a lot of people” and also be as energy-efficient as possible in its design.

“We can lead the way with gardens and sustainable living – what we call it is full circle living,” she said.

Scott McClurkin is the project’s construction manager and has a background in timber construction and milling. He said the plan is to build with locally-harvested Douglas Firs – and to get local residents involved in the process.

“Our goal is to train people as well – getting people jobs, because they help build these houses and help build this village that we're doing,” he said.

McClurkin and Arthur met while taking a class called “Native Americans in Contemporary Society” at the University of Wyoming. For their final assignment, the students were asked to write a paper about potential projects that could help improve life on reservations.

“I saw that [McClurkin’s] paper was about lumber and how to make [it] the new buffalo, so I approached him and asked him to draw me an A-frame based on that,” said Arthur.

Warm Valley LLC

At the time, Arthur was working on a mental health study on how to promote professional development on the Wind River Reservation. The two combined forces, and the project has since evolved to emphasize multigenerational and communal living, as well as opportunities for future classes in things like home ownership. Warm Valley started as an LLC in 2022 and became a nonprofit in 2024, according to Arthur.

Arthur said that finding funding to sustain the vision has been the biggest challenge since it started a little over two years ago. But, the nonprofit has been able to move forward with some initial funding from the Northern Arapaho Business Council and collaborations with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the University of Wyoming, and Wind River Cares, which will be fronting the cost for the community building.

Warm Valley has also been collaborating with local and regional contractors, architects, engineers and community members to get the project off the ground.

“When it's not me and it's for we, that's when the Creator helps you and you're able to just keep going,” she said.

Arthur said Warm Valley will continue to apply for grants to fund the project and is helping to start a local Housing Coalition at the recommendation of the USDA. The hope is to break ground on the first “pilot home” A-frame in early spring, depending on snow and weather conditions, then build the rest of the homes in about a year.

Last October, the Northern Arapaho Housing Authority celebrated the completion of the Chief Black Coal housing project in Arapaho. The affordable housing development includes 20 units and cost $10.1 million dollars to complete, with partial funding provided by the USDA Rural Development division.

Arthur said it will “ultimately be up to the Northern Arapaho Business Council” to determine who will live in the A-frames in the elder housing community. The land for the village is currently owned by the council.

Hannah Habermann is the rural and tribal reporter for Wyoming Public Radio. She has a degree in Environmental Studies and Non-Fiction Writing from Middlebury College and was the co-creator of the podcast Yonder Lies: Unpacking the Myths of Jackson Hole. Hannah also received the Pattie Layser Greater Yellowstone Creative Writing & Journalism Fellowship from the Wyoming Arts Council in 2021 and has taught backpacking and climbing courses throughout the West.
Related Content