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Homeless advocacy groups saw more people because due to pandemic

The COVID pandemic hit people hard, some hard enough that they needed to turn to homeless advocacy groups.
Published: Oct. 28, 2020 at 6:40 PM CDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - The COVID pandemic hit people hard, some hard enough that they needed to turn to homeless advocacy groups.

Rapid City’s homeless advocacy organizations felt the weight of the homeless population increase at the start of the pandemic.

“There are more homeless people in Rapid City, and I think that’s a trend that you’re going to see nationwide for a variety of reasons. We do what we can as one agency in town to assist them, and that’s what we do, is we take care of homeless people," said Lysa Allison, executive director for Cornerstone Rescue Mission.

Both organizations serve hundreds of individuals, but they have seen a decrease in numbers recently. The Hope Center went from feeding 150 people in the park to 30.

“That’s a pretty big difference, and I’m not sure why that would be. I don’t know if folks are taking advantage of the newly established camp or if it’s they’ve made other arrangements," said Melanie Timm, executive director of the Hope Center.

Last week, the Mni Luzahan Creek Patrol set up a homeless camp on tribals lands outside of Rapid City jurisdiction.

“We have some guests that have been staying at the camp, and they come back here to the Hope Center during the day to check their mail and to check in with us and take care of their business," said Timm. "So, I know that we have some individuals that are benefiting from that.”

Allison and Timm said it’s great to see other people getting involved, as long as it continues to help the homeless population.

“Everybody wants to help in their own different way, and everybody has different resources to bring to the table, and communication is always key," said Allison. "And if they can come to the table and figure out what can we do to help, whether it’s something huge or it’s something minor, it’s just creating that collaboration,” Allison said.

Timm and Allison also broke down the demographics of the people they help. Cornerstone Rescue Mission hasn’t seen much of a difference in the people who use their services and said it’s roughly 60% Native American and 40% Caucasian and other. However, for the Hope Center, they typically see Native American visitors between 30 and 50 years old, but the pandemic brought more families and children through their doors.

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