EDITOR’S NOTE: The following story deals with steps being taken to support the homeless in our community. The statements in bold come from an individual who has been helped. She was unable to share much of her background due to the trauma she and her family has endured. Her name remains anonymous to protect her privacy.
“Home” may mean different things to different people, but just having a place to call “home” can be difficult for some. Thankfully, the Watertown Area Community Foundation has partnered with organizations to bring “home” to many over the past year.
WACF grants have been awarded to support emergency housing, as well as transitional housing for women, through the efforts of Brothers and Sisters Behind Bars, Codington County Welfare and Inter-lakes Community Action Program working with the Department of Social Services, Midwest Bible Camp and other agencies.
“My two daughters and I were able to stay in the apartment for about five weeks this summer. It was relieving. Before we didn’t know where we were going to be.”
“We took possession of the apartment June 1. The first person placed there was on June 23. Since that date, someone has been in there pretty solid,” said Sara Foust, welfare director of Codington County. “This apartment gives us another option for people who don’t have a place to go. It allows us to house individuals and families that otherwise have no place to go beyond the streets. Hotels are an option, but they cost more and are also full much of the time.”
The apartment effort has gone well through teamwork. BSBB helped identify the need, Foust explained. The County has a contract with ICAP for case management services for the clients to work toward self-sufficiency. “These three organizations are really how the partnership works,” in addition to other agency support and financial support from organizations like the Foundation.
The “self-sufficiency” Foust describes may mean steps toward permanent housing, job sustainability, even accountability/support with drug and alcohol sobriety.
“For the most part, it is going well. My case worker is helping me figure it out. We don’t have a vehicle, but they gave us some Transit tokens that has helped us get around.” (Tokens to Community Transit also supported by a Women & Giving grant.)
“Clients are initially allowed to stay up to two weeks as long as they are actively pursuing permanent housing and working with their case manager,” explained Stacy Hendricks of BSBB. “If they are able to line up housing, but need more time until that housing is available, they will be allowed to stay until the planned housing becomes available.”
In the transitional housing for women, supported by a WACF Women & Giving grant, women tenants must meet certain criteria and goals in order to stay. Hendricks reported, “After a little over three months, the support form WACF has allowed us to welcome our seventh guest! The house is currently full with four women living there. Like with any new adventure, there has been a learning curve, but we remain fully committed to the work God has called us to in providing a safe and sober home for women to be able to live in for years to come.”
“Case management is a crucial piece,” said Foust. “This isn’t just about housing. They are busy doing things they need to do to get to a stability point. And each case is a little different. One just needed a very temporary place. She already had a job, so she just checked in a couple times a week. Another one may have ‘homework,’ deadlines, etc. and need much more support – it’s very individually based.”
And the individuals are many.
“This is our Band-Aid to help the situation until we can fully meet the need,” Foust added. “It’s a good step. We’ve identified the need and we are providing, but we have other individuals and families in need.”
“Actually, I have a friend who is homeless right now. I’m going to introduce her to Sara (Foust) so she can get a job, a place to stay and her son back.”
“I don’t know what 2022 looks like,” said Foust. “This was the first year for this program. Seeing the needs and our housing shortage I don’t know what will come but I’m very optimistic about the commitment of our community to figure out solutions.”
Until more solutions are found, individuals and families will be helped one at a time. For the lucky ones, “home for the holidays,” never sounded so good.
“I actually cried to Sarah when we walked into the apartment. It was good to have a home again.”