The Veterans Helping Hands Project in Hot Springs will include a factory where veterans will learn building trades after completing substance abuse treatment. (Courtesy of Veterans Helping Hands Project)
Victims of domestic violence, veterans, and those who’ve struggled with housing insecurity in South Dakota will soon have more options for temporary shelter thanks to federal COVID relief money.
More than $7.5 million in federal funding will be split between six nonprofits with plans to refurbish or expand living spaces in Sioux Falls, Watertown, Pierre, Hot Springs and Mitchell.
Awards for the six winning projects were finalized during the October meeting of the South Dakota Housing Development Authority (HDA), which accepted and reviewed applications for American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money.
The snowball is starting to roll downhill. South Dakota has a chance to show the rest of the nation how it takes care of its veterans.
– Dave Gates, Veterans Helping Hands Project
The size and scope of the awards was significant, according to HDA Executive Director Lorraine Polak.
“The purpose is to help shelters either renovate or develop capacity so they don’t have to have individuals all sleeping in the same room,” Polak said. “We’ve never had funding specifically for that purpose.”
The money will be a boon to the River City Domestic Violence Shelter in Yankton. The nonprofit plans to use its $1.3 million forgivable loan to double its capacity from 12 beds to 24, and to renovate its common areas to allow for more privacy.
The shelter is a busy place. There were 131 women and children who stayed at least one night in 2021, according to Executive Director Stacy Starzl Hansen. The out-sized need for services often has Hansen and her coworkers searching for rooms in local hotels.
Those rooms can be hard to come by.
“Our hotels are often full, because we’re a recreation area,” said Starzl Hansen, whose organization serves five southeast South Dakota counties. “Our town is so busy that we have to reach out to other areas when we’re full, and we’re often full to the brim.”
More than 42% of the shelter’s emergency services funds – money that could otherwise be used to help victims buy groceries or install safety features in their homes – went to help relocate victims and families to other cities last year, she said.
The HDA also awarded $1.6 million in ARPA funds to the House of Hope Emergency Shelter in Pierre for a new two-story shelter; $1.2 million to Interlakes Community Action Partnership to rehabilitate the Children’s Inn in Sioux Falls; and $2 million to SafePlace of South Dakota in Mitchell for a new two-story building.
Expansion projects in multiple cities will benefit victims of domestic violence across the entire southeast South Dakota region, Starzl-Hansen said.
“If we’re full, we send people to them, and if they’re full, they send people to us,” she said. “It’s going to help all of us.”
Also earning a share of the federal dollars were the Veterans Helping Hands Project in Hot Springs, with a $700,000 award, and Watertown Cares, an organization that plans to use its $1.03 million for the acquisition and rehabilitation of 10 short-term rental units.
The veterans project, located on 30 acres of land in Hot Springs, is a far-reaching vision for the organization’s president and founder, Vietnam War veteran Dave Gates. It starts with a factory, where veterans will learn building trades after completing substance abuse treatment.
Initially, they’ll build six duplexes, all but one of which will offer two 560-square-foot rental units for struggling veterans. The last duplex will be a shared space with computers, laundry facilities, couches and a television “so everyone will have a common area to go to when they get off work,” Gates said.
Once the rental houses are finished, the factory will convert to a shop whose workers can serve as subcontractors for West River developers.
“There’s always enough to build,” Gates said. “I don’t ever see there not being work.”
The COVID pandemic slowed project planning, Gates said, but the $700,000 in ARPA funding will allow the nonprofit to begin building its 25,000-square-foot factory.
“The snowball is starting to roll downhill,” Gates said. “South Dakota has a chance to show the rest of the nation how it takes care of its veterans.”
Where the money’s going
More than $7.5 million in federal funding will be split between six nonprofits with plans to refurbish or expand living spaces:
- $2 million, SafePlace of South Dakota in Mitchell
- $1.6 million, House of Hope Emergency Shelter in Pierre
- $1.3 million, River City Domestic Violence Shelter in Yankton
- $1.2 million, Interlakes Community Action Partnership (for a project at the Children’s Inn in Sioux Falls)
- $1.03 million, Watertown Cares
- $700,000, Veterans Helping Hands Project in Hot Springs
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