As leaders from the Volunteers of America (VOA), Dakotas attest, no young person chooses homelessness. They sometimes face difficult circumstances that contribute to their homelessness, including family dysfunction, abuse at home, aging out of the foster care system, exiting the juvenile justice system and economic hardship. The Sioux Falls School District has recently identified nearly 1,300 children and teens without a secure, permanent home.
To soften the burden of youth homelessness, VOA, Dakotas recently completed its Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce Community Appeals campaign in support of HomePlace, a new, 21-unit apartment complex to be built on the west side of Sioux Falls. Construction began in late March of 2019 and the project is expected to be completed in the winter of 2020.
Having raised $1.425 million during their campaign period from November 2018 through March 2019–more than $200,000 over goal–VOA, Dakotas' appeal for people to contribute toward the campaign was three-fold.
First, youth homelessness is growing in our community and therefore educating the public and building awareness is crucial. Second, by helping homeless youth rather than neglecting the issue, there is a positive economic impact, both to the individual, as well as for the business community at-large. Finally, HomePlace will make a difference in the lives of youth by helping them with a basic human need. When this is fulfilled, the possibility for a harmonious, safe and productive life increases exponentially.
Dennis Hoffman, VOA, Dakotas President/CEO, said key to the campaign success was the passion of their volunteers and volunteer leadership team, which translated into generous support of the business community. Campaign chairs included Tony Nour, First PREMIER Bank; Julie Nelson, American Bank & Trust; Mike Teslow, Max One Nutrition LLC; and Honorary Chair Curt Zaske. More than 75 volunteers were involved in the campaign.
Hoffman said that the Chamber's structure and process was vital to the impact of this program, stating the awareness and buy-in gained from being a part of this process helped with the success.
Campaign Chair Julie Nelson said the Christian-based virtues that VOA, Dakotas embodies is a crucial element to its mission. "VOA is called by the gospel to reach out to those who need help. For nearly 100 years, VOA, Dakotas has been identifying needs in our community and providing services to meet these unique unmet needs."
According to Hoffman, the HomePlace program will enhance the economic vitality and quality of life of our area by providing an opportunity for youth who want a hand up, not a hand out as they pay rent and are expected to find employment–or if currently working–to remain employed. Upon completion of their stay, deposit and rent are returned to assist them to further their education or to make a deposit on an apartment.
"Economic vitality is directly impacted by our workforce. The earlier we can assist individuals, the more likely they are to give back and contribute to the Sioux Falls area economy," Hoffman said. "Quality of life is significantly impacted by education completion, independent living skills and successful transition from homeless to self-reliance."