One Roof helps high-risk renters improve their record while providing a guarantee for landlords


SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — For months, many people across KELOLAND have struggled to find available housing with both rentals and real estate in short supply across South Dakota. It’s a familiar feeling for some people who have always struggled to find a place to live; now the One Roof program is helping them get into a place of their own.

There are new apartments and homes going up all over Sioux Falls right now, but in the meantime, trying to get into an open rental property is a big challenge.

“In the current environment as a landlord, one red flag could say, hey, I’m not going to even put interest there because there’s plenty of other options,” Empower Sioux Falls landlord Rich Merkouris said. 

Landlords are flooded with applicants for open apartments, making it even more of a challenge for some in the city to secure a space.

“It could be poor credit, poor renting history, or maybe a criminal record,” The Community Outreach Genesis Program Manager Nate Rygh said. 

Even before the current housing crunch, hopeful renters who applied for housing were often rejected.
“They might be denied from multiple different landlords,” Rygh said. 

That’s why several agencies in the Sioux Falls area came together to create One Roof.

“One Roof is a program that is for those that are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, If they have some housing barriers like a poor credit history or a criminal background, we’re able to partner with different landlords in the community to help them get into stable housing,” The Community Outreach Housing Program Coordinator Kayla Tronvold said. 

The program helps get these people into homes by taking away some of the risk for landlords.

“For these families who most landlords would consider high risk, we provide financial insurance,” Rygh said.

“If there’s ever an instance of unpaid rent or property damage, ICAP (Inter-Lakes Community Action Partnership) would provide funds to funnel through our agency to reimburse that landlord.

“This is a 10-plex we just purchased and have been remodeling the units here to try to rent them out at affordable rates,” Merkouris said. 

Landlords like Rich Merkouris with Empower Sioux Falls know accepting tenants in the One Roof program comes with a risk.

“They haven’t had stable housing before, so they might not have experiences like us of taking care of a property, sometimes because of life’s circumstance, don’t leave things in the best of shape,” Merkouris said. 

But the guarantee One Roof offers helps ease those concerns, and the added benefits of the program are something more landlords can get behind.

“I really like the case management it provides, it does a good job of putting people in a place where they’re not just saying, hey get better at this, but they’re given a support system to help them become better renters,” Merkouris said. 

“We provide monthly home visits, we provide a mentor through the Genesis Mentoring Program, they’re working with them for budgeting, debt management, savings, credit,” Rygh said. 

Since its start in the fall of 2018, One Roof has helped more than a dozen new renters.

“Success for quite a few of our participants is just being able to have a home, where they can provide the same place for their kids to sleep night after night, for those who are parents we hear that a lot. My kids are so excited to have a place to call home,” Tronvold said.

“We see a lot of people coming out of an addiction…coming out of treatment, still in that process of healing and don’t have much stability in their life,” Merkouris said. 

But a roof over their heads provides hope for the future.

“The goal is at the end of the program they’d be able to transition to an apartment where they want to live, not necessarily what was available to them at the time,” Tronvold said.

A transition that comes after a year of hard work and determination to learn how to better maintain and manage a home of their own.

“The only way to move towards self-sufficiency is to have someone walk with them, to teach them new behaviors, and give them a vision of where they could be,” Merkouris said. 

One Roof has a list of clients waiting to get into the program. In the current housing shortage, it’s a challenge to get Landlords to participate with the program, even with the incentive of insurance. For more information on how to get involved in One Roof as a tenant-landlord or mentor, visit their website

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