KOTA News Extra: Housing the Homeless - KOTA Territory News

KOTA News Extra: Housing the Homeless

There are more than 700 homeless children in Rapid City; add adults into the mix and Rapid City's homeless population climbs dramatically.

For many, living in poverty is a way of life. It's what their parents did before them and breaking that cycle is extremely difficult.

Fortunately, there are a number of things happening in Rapid City right now that may help combat poverty.

There's an undercurrent in Rapid City that many people ignore, or are unaware of.  Many families don't know where they'll sleep from night to night. "There are a lot of people out there who need homes," homeless woman Hope LaPointe said.  "Men, women children,They're out there," She continued.

It's a tough life and it's often dangerous.  Hope broke both of her legs near Rapid Creek.  Today she is happy to be recovering at the Cornerstone Women and Children's Shelter.

Hope wasn't always homeless, but her $700 disability check doesn't afford her many options when it comes to housing in Rapid City.

Eldridge, another man who is homeless has a family to think about.  He works more than 40 hours per week, but the average apartment in Rapid City is still more money than he can afford.  "It's either you pick this bill or go with the rent," Eldridge said.

Thanks to the Cornerstone Rescue Mission Eldridge's family is off the streets living at the Cornerstone Apartments until they're able to get housing assistance.   They're on the waiting list, but they're still looking at another year before low income housing is available.  They're number 400 on the list. 

The news is even worse for single people or married couples without children. Hope is number 1,100 on the waiting list.

Affordable housing is considered 30 percent of your gross income.  A person like Eldridge who makes a little more than $1,100 per month would be able to afford an apartment for around $348 per month.  The majority of apartments in Rapid City cost at least twice that.

Rapid City Community Development Manager Barb Garcia says a lack of affordable housing in Rapid City has been a problem since then1970'ss.  City council members have made tackling the crisis a priority this year.  Garcia says that's a good thing because housing is the number one proven way to stabilize a person or family.  "If someone doesn't have housing, the safety and security of knowing where they're going to sleep, how they're going to get out of the weather and a place for their family, they can't concentrate on work," Garcia said.

There are a number of strategies on the table to deal with the affordable housing crisis. One way: offer incentives, like a TIF, to builders to develop small affordable apartments.  The builder would get a break up front and agree to keep the rent amount low for a number of years.

Another idea:  developing a land trust.  With a land trust a subsidy reduces the price of a home for the buyer and then when that buyers sells, a portion of the profit will stay in the trust, making the house affordable for the next buyer.

Right now these ideas are just that, but the Rapid City Council will take action at their next meeting.  Until then, people like Hope and Eldridge's family will continue to wait and hope the issue is resolved sooner rather than later.

"We are human beings just like anyone else," Hope said. "We just want to have our own homes like we used to," She continued.

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