40% of reservation housing is considered sub-standard

Winter Fuel Service

Winter is a tough season for many, but for those with a meager income, it can be threatening. In the desert Southwest winters, Native American Elders living on fixed incomes struggle to stay warm.

Our Winter Fuel service brings immediate relief from the cold to Native Elders on Southwest Reservations like Navajo via vouchers to help lower the cost of their electric, propane, or natural gas bill.





The Challenge

Photo of a Navajo Hogan

Surprising to many, reservations in the Southwest are often bitterly cold with nightly temperatures dropping well below zero. (1) In these conditions, exposed skin can freeze in just a matter of minutes. (2)

While many people associate heat and arid desert with the Southwest, winters are actually a challenging and dangerous time for many Native Elders in this region.

Many of the Elders in our service area find it difficult to sustain sufficient heat during the winter. Most are living on a fixed income and about half are raising their grandchildren, often facing the choice of buying food or heating their home. Many are diabetic and may need to choose between medications, foods, or warmth.

Photo of Minnie, a Native Elder

When the money runs out, local residents have been known to burn clothing or furniture — a health hazard in itself — in anxious attempts to stay warm.

Additionally, transportation is an issue. Many Elders’ homes are so remote or located off of dirt roads where snow, ice, and flooding can make them impassible.

Did you know:

  • 37% of Native families with children are living in poverty.
  • 1 in 5 Elders in our Southwest service area are living in poverty.
  • 40% of reservation housing is considered sub-standard posing a risk to the health, safety, or physical well-being of its occupants, neighbors, or visitors and is typically insufficient to heat.
  • Many tribal energy assistance funds are depleted before the Southwest winters end.


Our Solution

With the help of our generous donors, SWRA’s Winter Fuel service helps our Program Partners assist Elders in their communities who are at risk of being without heat. We provide winter fuel vouchers to help Elders lower the cost of their electric, propane, or natural gas bill.

Our Winter Fuel service brings immediate relief from the cold
to Native Elders during Southwest winters.

Photo of Nina and Ellis, two Native American Elders.
At 85 and 75 years old, respectively, Nina and Ellis have been married for 48 years. Nina explained their social security is only a few dollars above baseline, “We have to stretch our money through the month. Nina told us the fuel voucher will “help a lot because it gets really cold here. I really, really appreciate what the donors are doing for our people.”
Learn more about Nina & Ellis >>

Every two years, SWRA brings the Winter Fuel service to a different reservation to avoid creating dependency and to promote self-sufficiency. We help show each tribe the value of outside resources and encourage them to seek alternative means to continue the service when we move on to assist other reservations. However, if more funds were available, we could assist more Elders each year.

In 2022, 94 Elders received winter heating assistance totaling $7,600 in relief through SWRAs Winter Fuel service.

Caring for Elders is a strong value in Native American culture, and winter fuel provided by SWRA helps communities honor this enriching opportunity.

Your support of our Winter Fuel service is critical to Native American Elders living in substandard housing on remote reservations. Your gift today can help keep an Elder warm on the reservation for a little bit longer.


(1) https://www.accuweather.com/en/us/sheep-springs/87364/january-weather/349620?year=2023
(2) https://www.foxweather.com/learn/how-long-until-frostbite

Other Services:
Holiday Support
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