SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Inflation and a lack of affordable housing have a growing number of people turning to Sioux Falls shelters for help.
To meet the growing need, these facilities are also working to expand.
Jessica Thomas arrived at the Union Gospel Mission in early August, after being homeless for seven years.
“I came here with pretty much absolutely nothing. I had the clothes on my back. That’s all I had when I got here,” said Jessica Thomas, a former resident.
Over the last three months, Thomas worked alongside her case manager to get her life back on track.
“They give us all the resources we need to be successful. They help us fill out all the paperwork, they give us every resource that possibly could help us build a future and build a life for ourselves and be successful in the community,” Thomas said.
“Case managers walk through all of these different paths with people to get them the things they want as quickly as they’re able to navigate those processes,” said Rochelle Williams, Community Health Worker.
Rochelle Williams is one of two community health coordinators. As a former resident, herself, Williams says she wants to provide others with the tools to change their situations.
“These are all the doors that open up and those guys are going out in the community and doing different things and volunteering and really making a difference,” Williams said.
Now, Thomas and her newborn baby, Hope, are moving into their own place in Sioux Falls.
“I’m really glad I came here because I probably would not be as far as I am right now in my life,” Thomas said.
Since the beginning of the year, the Mission has helped 1,300-1,400 people find housing. But before they were ready to live on their own, all of those people needed a place to stay, which is why CEO Eric Weber says the Mission needs more space.
“Take care of the needs of the community because it’s what we do. We’re a nonprofit in the neighborhood of Whittier, and we take care of mostly a lot of people from South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, they come from all over,” Weber said.
Construction on the 3rd floor got underway in March. The $1.2 million expansion will add 10 family-sized rooms. By the end of the year, this 14,000-square-foot area will be able to host close to 80 guests.
“We’re seeing the influx of moms with older kids becoming homeless. And so with our programs, what we can do is give them a safe place to stay. And then we’re able to get them case management and community health workers working with them and get them housing faster,” Weber said.
It costs close to $200,000 a month to run the facility, provide free programs and house more than 100 residents. That number is expected to increase over the next few months. But Weber says the goal is to help these guests find their own path forward.
“We have all the services to wrap around, services to help them become stable and that’s what we want. We want people to become stable in the community,” Weber said.
In addition to the 3rd floor, the Mission is working alongside the South Dakota Dental Association to provide free dental work to guests in 2024. Weber says they will also need more volunteers.