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A New Home For The Homeless

July 2, 2014, 10:05 PM by Sammi Bjelland

A New Home For The Homeless

Homelessness is a problem that continues to grow across the country, and here in KELOLAND. People in South Dakota's largest city face difficulties with limited low-income housing, and resources that are spread far apart.

Many people have a perception of what they think homelessness looks like. But those who work with the homeless community in Sioux Falls on a regular basis say, it's not what you might think.

"You know, I think  a lot of people look at homeless people and they believe that maybe they're lazy, they don't want to work and that's very much not the case with the majority of the people that we see at The Banquet. They're trying to do the best for their families. They're trying to do the best for themselves. They're just in situations that are very difficult," Tamera Jerke-Liesinger, Executive Director for The Banquet said. 

"Lots of times they think of it as an intoxicated individual that's kind of panhandling. They don't realize that on a national level, the average age of a homeless person is seven-years-old," Stacey Tieszen, Coordinator for the Homeless Advisory Board said. 

Minnehaha County does a survey each year, and found 618 people living on the streets in September. A statistic that anyone could be added to.

"The reality is, if you need a two bedroom in Sioux Falls you need to be earning $14.62 an hour. There are plenty of jobs in Sioux Falls that don't pay that," Tieszen said. 

"How close most of us are to being homeless. It's just one major life event that can happen for a lot of people that can put them in that situation. It's people that didn't expect to have that medical bill. They didn't expect to maybe lose that job. And when they did, those resources dried up and they found themselves in a situation they didn't expect to be in," Jerke-Liesinger said. 

"All it takes is an illness or a disaster of some sort or some type of problem, that pushes people over the edge and creates that situation of homelessness," Jerry Klein, Delegate for Communications and Social Outreach for the Sioux Falls Catholic Diocese said. 

It's a situation that can be difficult to manage, especially with big gaps in the services provided to the homeless right now.

"The big one is nothing on the weekends. The Good Shepherd Center is only Monday through Friday, and so this is an opportunity to expand. And then the warming site doesn't open until 7 p.m., so if there's nothing on Saturday's and Sunday's and holidays then you kind of get stuck with people who have no place to go. And so they're either outside freezing, or they're warming up in the library downtown. Which the library doesn't mind. But the library isn't a shelter, the library is a library and should be used as such," Tieszen said. 

Another gap is the space available for families to stay together. Currently, many homeless families are put in motels. But those locations are far away from the other services in town.

The tan building just over there is where the new Bishop Dudley Hospitality House will be located. Now, one of the reasons they chose this location is because of it's close proximity to other resources, like the Banquet. 

"A homeless person, you're constantly on the move. You don't have a place to be. So you start out your day here, you have breakfast. Then you go to the Good Shepherd Center to look for a job and make some employment contacts. Then it's back here to eat dinner. So being in a closer proximity is going to make those services easier for people to obtain and hopefully make them more successful," Jerke-Liesinger said. 

The details of the new Bishop Dudley Hospitality House are still being hammered out, but they do see it as being a place of refuge for the homeless community.

"All kinds of service providers will be able to use an office space here for example. Maybe deal with some addiction issues. Deal with mental health issues. Deal with medical issues. And so if we can be that hub of a place where those services can be delivered, that would be a big help," Klein said. 

Something organizations like the Salvation Army, the Catholic Diocese and the County hope can be accomplished with the help of the community.

"And so people don't think necessarily about all of those factors that come together. And they kind of just, 'Oh you're homeless. Too bad.' But the reality is, it takes a whole community to make things better. And we all have to step back for a second and say what would happen if this were me," Tieszen said.

The goal is to have the new Bishop Dudley Hospitality House open by the first of 2015. Later this month we'll find out how they plan to raise funds for the project, and how you can help out.


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