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A Place To Turn

March 10, 2009, 10:12 PM by Courtney Zieller

A Place To Turn
The shaken economy has many people wondering how they'll be able to hang onto their homes. The number of people left out in the cold is rising in South Dakota but the Minnehaha Department of Health and Human Services wants to help with rent assistance.  

Jean Moen never imagined she'd find herself at the Department of Health and Human Services asking for help. 

"I was in upper management until about five years ago, then I took a job with lesser pay and over last five years it went down, down, down," Moen said.

Now, she's falling behind on her rent. 

"I used to consider myself way up on the scale of living and through things and life and problems I've had, I feel like I'm at the very bottom of the living scale," Moen said.

Moen is far from alone.

"There's been a huge amount of need to a community this size and it's not something people are aware of. It's not certainly something I was aware of," Minnehaha County Case Worker Nic Brokenleg said. 

Brokenleg sits down with people everyday who need help paying for food, utilities or rent. He says he never knew how big the problem really was. 

"Homelessness in Sioux Falls isn't something that's easy to ignore. It's not something you see a lot of," Brokenleg said.

But that's not the case anymore. Director Hugh Grogan says the unstable economy is sending more people through these doors -- unsure where else to turn. 

"You're really coming to a place where you have to bear your soul to get help," Grogan said. 

"Today I'm all by myself so I had to talk to myself this morning to get out the door and go ask for some help," Moen said. 

"For most people it's pretty difficult. There have been a lot of people coming here now that haven't been here before," Brokenleg said. 

In early December the department hired 2 more people to help those needing assistance and Grogan says those extra bodies are making a big difference. 

"They will be a major factor in helping to assure meeting needs. What we're hoping to do is reduce the number of households we would turn away," Grogan said.

Moen is one of many who will benefit and for her, it wasn't easy getting in line.

"Stay calm take that deep breath. Try not to be as nervous as I feel because they are good," Moen said.

After sitting down with a professional, Moen says she couldn't be happier about the help she's going to get.

Help that will be here as long as there's a need.

Grogan says there has been a drop in the amount of people coming through the door recently but he thinks it's mostly because many are getting their income tax returns back. He expects another rush to hit in a few months.

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