If you’ve just been released from prison, have a felony on your record, or trying to stay in addiction recovery, finding affordable housing can be difficult. A central Sioux Falls property, owned by Volunteers of America, Dakotas, is designed to give people an affordable and safe place to live. Summit Heights, just a block off of West 11th Street, has 37 low income apartments.
35-year-old Ashley Eagle’s daughter is getting picked up out front of her Summit Heights apartment for preschool.
A little over a year ago, Eagle found an apartment here that she can afford and she told us is “felony friendly.”
“I’m very proud of it and I’m very grateful for them,” Eagle said.
Eagle has been in recovery from substance use disorder for two years now and has been able to get custody of her three children back.
“I need this place for my kids, because I don’t know if I can make it anywhere else to be honest. I’m very proud of myself, because I did it all on my own for once,” Eagle said.
“What we had hoped to do with this facility is to create a place with safe, stable housing, where it is drug free, tobacco free, alcohol free, safe housing for folks who have extra challenges and a place they can stay that’s really affordable and safe in our community,” Becky Deelstra said.
But Volunteers of America Dakotas says one thing that’s made it difficult to create a safe place for their residents, is what happens, literally, right outside their front door.
“It is difficult for me, letting my kids come out; find needles on the ground. Actually there’s really no telling what you’ll find laying around out in the open. Or who, might be lying around drunk or passed out,” Eagle said.
“It may not be the friendliest neighborhood, especially if you have children and you want your children to be able to play outside; that can be a significant challenge. There are a lot of people who congregate in this area,” Deelstra said.
Eagle says her way of coping is to go from her front door to her car as quickly as possible.
“I would like to move out of here. Just want to be able to have a porch or somewhere to sit and watch my kids play outside in the front yard,” Eagle said.
So what is going on in the parking lot in front of Summit Heights, that’s hindering the VOA’s mission?
That’s what we wanted to find out.
Beginning last May, we started keeping an eye on the area, both at night and during the day.
What we saw, paints a grim picture of the situation here.
We look into some of the reasons why this area has been a hotbed of criminal activity and who is responsible for the property directly across the parking lot from the VOA’s facility.
Watch “Secrets in Plain Sight” Thursday night at 10.