Grassroots group looks to establish Mitchell's 1st homeless shelter
South Dakota’s largest cities aren’t the only areas seeing increasing rates of homelessness. Residents of Mitchell are hoping to establish the city’s only homeless shelter to assist the hundreds of people without a reliable place to stay.
The Salvation Army in Mitchell reports around 20 people monthly seeking emergency shelter. While Mitchell does have a domestic violence shelter, any other shelters are at least an hour’s drive away in Sioux Falls.
Wendy Figland is a member of the citizen-led task force working to establish a local homeless shelter. She has firsthand experience being homeless, and also spent many years working with the local domestic violence shelter. Figland says Mitchell has far fewer resources than other larger cities in the state.
“Here we have a one-night hotel stay, and go to the food pantry and get some food, go to the Salvation Army for lunch, and that’s kind of the extent of what’s available,” said Figland.
The group calls themselves "Home for Now," and includes clergy members, concerned citizens, and faculty members from Dakota Wesleyan University. In its most recent meeting, the task force discussed plans to present to Mitchell City Council later this summer.
Reverend Matthew Richards leads the meetings in the conference room of the Congregational United Church of Christ, where he is lead pastor.
“This is entirely grassroots from the community," he said. "[We're] hoping for other organizations to sit in and be involved and partner with us. And also churches as well.”
Reverend Richards sees a special opportunity for the faith leaders of Mitchell to find solutions to homelessness in their community.
“Christ says, ‘What you’ve done to the least of these you’ve done to me.’ How can you ignore that?” said Richards.
The group is filing for 501c3 nonprofit status. They hold public meetings twice a month.
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated 200 people sought emergency shelter with the Mitchell Salvation Army each month. This figure included people seeking assistance with food insecurities and rental or utility costs. The number specifically seeking shelter is closer to 20.