Rapid City homeless shelter adopts stricter policies - KOTA Territory News

Rapid City homeless shelter adopts stricter policies

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The numbers are rough estimates at best, but 800 homeless people are living on the streets of Rapid City.
 
Their options for a different life are often limited.
And now, questions are arising if a policy shift at the Cornerstone Rescue Mission is creating an even greater hardship.

Ken Cheek knows addiction can bring you to some unlikely places

"I came into the mission because that's where I was dropped off when I hitchhiked," said Ken Cheek, a Veteran who has struggled with homelessness in the past.

Even though he's now living sober and independently, Cheek knows there are still many at the  mission with no immediate goals beyond shelter.

"They weren't trying to better themselves, or take care of addictions, or look for work. They were just here at night, wandering the streets during the day. No progress was being made. I've seen that over the years," said Cheek.

Now, new policy changes at the mission mean guests are given only seven days to stay without obligation. And during that time, they're expected to meet with case workers to develop a plan for independence.

"We don't want this to be a flop house, it's not a place to come hang and do nothing. Do chores, do something to help yourself and that's all we're asking," said Jim Castleberry, Executive Director at the Cornerstone Rescue Mission.

The mission operates on a budget of about $700,000 a year, funded through the city, private donations and fundraising. It's a budget that's already stretched thin.

"It takes a lot of money to keep this place open 365 days a year, seven days a week, serving three meals a day," said Castleberry.

But many are critical of the new, strict approach and limited stay time, including those who work with the homeless on a daily basis.

Staff at the Hope Center say getting off the streets is a long process, one that cannot be rushed, even by shrinking budgets.

"I think the guests we see are in the position they're in because of years of trauma, abuse, neglect. I don't know that it's realistic to say in a week or 30 days they can get a job and move forward," said Carrie Miller, Director at the Rapid City Hope Center. 

All mission directors want to see a plan within a week, the rest is flexible.

"We believe work is important, and I don't want to see anyone suffer, we'll bend the rules and make things work for people in a hard situation," said Castleberry.

For Cheek, the new policy makes sense.

"It was a bad environment for others trying to do right," said Cheek.

The mission places roughly 100 people in independent housing every year.
Castleberry hopes the stricter policies will increase that success rate.

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