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Minnehaha County initiative aims to improve housing access for former offenders

Photo depicting jail cell bars
Photo depicting jail cell bars(MGN Online / Mitchell Haindfield / CC BY 2.0)
Published: May. 18, 2022 at 2:26 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Minnehaha County is one of four communities selected for participation in the launch of the Just Home Project, a national program designed to advance community-driven efforts to improve access to housing for those impacted by the criminal justice system.

The initiative is led by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Urban Institute. Minnehaha County’s selection includes a $775,000 grant from the MacArthur Foundation and eligibility to access up to $3.5 million dollars of investment funds that are designed to support implementation plans, according to a press release from the city.

Individuals impacted by the justice system encounter significant challenges navigating the rental housing market as well as barriers that exist in current supportive housing programs. This program will prioritize housing by focusing on reducing barriers for this population.

“Our judges, probation officers, and Specialty Court team members are consistently searching for housing options for individuals involved in the justice system. We are acutely aware that stable housing is a key ingredient to recovery,” said Judge Robin J. Houwman, Presiding Judge, Second Judicial Circuit.

“The County is thrilled to be awarded this funding. It reflects we are on the right track to assist those who need housing and demonstrates our commitment to continually improve,” said Cindy Heiberger, Minnehaha County Commissioner.

“Justice-involved individuals face multiple barriers when seeking affordable, stable housing,” said Mayor Paul TenHaken. “This generous MacArthur Foundation Grant will help our community address roadblocks and focus on assisting justice-involved individuals increase their opportunities to succeed in our community. The Just Home Project is a prime example of how collaboration and partnerships are essential to continue addressing housing challenges in our community.”

During a six-month planning process, community partners will develop a housing investment action plan for people impacted by the justice system, officials say. The action plan will build on existing community engagement and programs to efficiently use grant resources.

“In Sioux Falls, it’s extremely difficult to get housing when you have a history with the criminal justice system. With that said, we are blessed in our community to have state, county, and private sector businesses always collaborating to achieve common goals of helping those in need,” said Greg Sands of Sands Wall Systems, one of the many community partners involved in this project.

In addition to Minnehaha County, other communities selected for the Just Home Project are Charleston County, South Carolina; City and County of San Francisco, California; and Tulsa County, Oklahoma.

All four communities will have the opportunity to receive additional support from the MacArthur Foundation in impact investment, which will expand the MacArthur Foundation’s capacity to achieve its philanthropic goals. To help participating communities acquire or develop housing that meets the needs of justice-involved individuals, the MacArthur Foundation plans to provide long-term loans totaling up to $15 million.

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