Keeping children and their families in secure housing is a top priority for Sioux Falls Thrive’s Housing Action Team. Thanks to a $207,000 Community Innovation Grant from the Bush Foundation, St. Paul, the team’s work is about to get a little easier.

At recent count, 1,100 school-age children in Sioux Falls are virtually homeless. With affordable housing in short supply, finding a place to live is tough. The search is even tougher for a family that’s lost a home due to an eviction.

Evictions skyrocketing

Evictions in Sioux Falls have skyrocketed since 2008 and are expected to climb to crisis proportions when the CDC’s moratorium ends.

Imagine how hard it would be to lose your home. Now imagine how hard that would be if you were a kid without any way to right a world that has suddenly flipped upside down.

Candy Hanson

Sioux Falls Thrive

This past year, Thrive’s 15-member Housing Action Team looked for ways to prevent eviction. The team imagined what would happen if property managers and tenants could bring in a neutral facilitator to help them resolve disputes. Their work led to creating a job description for a Housing Retention Specialist.

It’s about more than money

The most common reason for eviction is missed rent payments. But for many families struggling to make ends meet, money is not their only problem. The retention specialist is trained to assess a family’s needs and to link them to existing community resources that can help stabilize their living situation.

Team members who fleshed out the Housing Retention Specialist pilot project include:

  • Anny Libengood, Minnehaha County Human Services
  • Roger Jacobs, HUD South Dakota Field Office
  • Sheri Ekdom, Lutheran Social Services
  • Amy Carter, Children’s Inn
  • Property owners and others

Thrive submitted the application for funding to the Bush Foundation on behalf of the team.

Partnerships in Pilot Project

Thrive’s efforts found a partner in the Sioux Falls Area Community Foundation, which agreed to serve as the grant’s fiscal sponsor. A request for proposals to identify the agency to implement the pilot went out to 12 government and nonprofit agencies. Just as the application was being filed, East River Legal Services agreed to undertake the pilot.

Thrive will coordinate the final design and implementation of the HRS Pilot. Members from Thrive’s Housing Action Team and East River Legal Services have formed an HRS Task Team to develop an outreach plan. The task team will work with Augustana University Research Institute to target measurable performance indicators. Planning for implementation will take about four months.

“This project is entirely voluntary,” says Hanson. “Eviction proceedings are extremely expensive for both property owners and renters. The financial savings on both sides should be enough to motivate folks to give the retention specialist a try.”

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