- Associated Press - Monday, April 3, 2017

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) - A group of community leaders is throwing its efforts behind an idea to revolutionize how Rapid City provides services to its mentally ill and homeless populations, and the members are looking south to the Lone Star State for a nationally acclaimed program as the model.

The Texas program is called Haven for Hope, though the Rapid City version would probably get its own name. Based in San Antonio, Haven for Hope is a 22-acre campus that provides a wide range of social, health care, and rehabilitation services - including housing, case management and job training, all in one spot.

The Rapid City Journal (http://bit.ly/2nsavxf ) reports that the Rapid City Collective Impact group organized a trip for 18 leaders in law enforcement, city government and social service to visit Haven for Hope on March 7. Having returned, they are now determined to replicate the model here in the Black Hills.

Built in 2010, Haven for Hope was credited last year for reducing homelessness in San Antonio by 80 percent. According to an article in The Boston Globe, since its creation, more than 3,000 men, women and children have been placed in permanent housing after participating in Haven for Hope’s programs. The facility also offers sleeping space that can accommodate hundreds of people at a time.

“I think that is within our reach,” Rapid City Police Chief Karl Jegeris said Tuesday during a news conference at the former National American University building in Rapid City. Jegeris was part of the group that visited Haven For Hope.

“We need to set that as our bar. We need to work collaboratively to reduce homelessness by 80 percent in Rapid City. And it can be done,” he said.

Also on the Texas trip was Ruby Gibson, director of Freedom Lodge, a local nonprofit that provides historical trauma therapy primarily to members of Rapid City’s Native American community.

“They work from a place of ‘radical compassion,’” Gibson said. “It requires a change of thinking, it requires a unification rather than a division of race, where we look at each other in a different way, where we all share the same community, and that one person’s suffering, or one person’s joy, is another person’s joy.”

Albert Linderman, director of Rapid City Collective Impact, said he was impressed with what he saw at Haven for Hope.

“We were as a group in agreement that this was a powerful display of humanity and intelligence,” Linderman said. “The group of us got a vision for Rapid City.”

The next step for realizing that vision, Linderman said, is for Rapid City Collective Impact and various community stakeholders to begin creating a strategic plan in the weeks ahead to hammer out potential costs and possible locations of facilities.

Linderman described three components of Haven for Hope that he thinks should be reproduced in Rapid City, one of which is in the process of being developed.

The Pennington County Health Facility being built in the former NAU building will fulfill what Linderman refers to as the “restoration” part of the Haven for Hope model. A $14 million project slated for completion next March, the County Health Facility will put the detoxification center, the Crisis Care Center, and Health and Human Services all under one roof.

Completing the Haven for Hope model will take a greater investment in permanent affordable housing, and to help individuals craft personalized plans for securing and maintaining a workable lifestyle with ready access to the services they need.

Jegeris said he thinks the Haven for Hope approach could save Rapid City hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“(Haven for Hope) saved their community millions of dollars,” Jegeris said, “by taking on this type of approach, which is a more humanitarian approach, where you’re actually taking care of people and addressing root causes rather than the current condition. What we use in Rapid City, which is primarily punitive, a criminal justice approach that’s very expensive, ineffective, and does not result in longstanding change.”

All the pieces haven’t fallen into place yet, but Linderman said he and Rapid City Collective Impact will continue to move the community conversation forward.

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Information from: Rapid City Journal, http://www.rapidcityjournal.com

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