It took a long time for the winter to get here, and when it finally did, luckily, no one in Yankton was left out in the cold.
With the arrival of arctic temperatures to the region last week, the waiting list for the shelter was shorter than normal, according to Jesse Bailey, executive director of Pathways Shelter for the Homeless.
“Over the past two months there have been on average about 25 people on this list, whereas typically, that list is upwards of 50 people on average,” he told the Press & Dakotan. “On a good note, the list was lower. On a bad note, that list is still there.”
People in danger of finding themselves out in the street, were able to quickly receive shelter, Bailey said.
“With the cold spell, there have been only a handful of individuals or families that have been living in vehicles,” he said. “We’ve been able to get them in right away, or at least connect them with a church that will pay for a motel for a couple nights until we can get them in.”
The implication, Bailey said, is that client turnover is keeping up with demand.
“We’re getting enough folks into housing quickly enough to keep our waiting list moving,” he said. “We didn’t hear of anybody staying on the streets because of lack of shelter.”
That hasn’t always been the case.
“Fortunately, those times have come during the warmer months when it wasn’t detrimental to be outside,” Bailey said. “Obviously, we want to fix that.”
Bailey credits the federal eviction moratorium with preventing a surge in homelessness.
“When the moratorium was first issued, it was only for federally funded housing, so private renters could still evict due to nonpayment of rent.” Bailey said. “Once the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) put their moratorium in, all rentals were covered.”
In addition to experiencing a lower demand, Pathways has found itself educating renters and landlords on the current federal process and pointing those in need of financial assistance to the relevant programs.
But, the eviction moratorium will sunset on March 31 if the federal government doesn’t act, likely raising the number of families and individuals seeking shelter in the area, he said.
“Even though there’s an eviction moratorium, renters still owe and will have to pay their rent,” Bailey said. “If they haven’t found assistance, they might have a few thousand dollars worth of rent that’s piling up. So I do think that our waiting list will not stay at 25.”
Pathways will likely be full by late spring or early summer, he said.
Currently, the shelter has about 48 beds available overall, many configured with families in mind. By April, the current basement renovation will up that total to 96 beds for individuals and families, Bailey said.
Though the expansion is paid for, other incidental expenses are not. To address those, Bailey hopes to add recurring donations as a funding source for Pathways.
“We love every donation that we get and every penny helps us as a nonprofit,” he said. “But what would really be helpful is knowing that we’re going to be getting a set amount of money each month. That way, we don’t have a deficit one month.”
More and more, donors are willing to split up their proposed donations, paying them out over the year, Baily said. The staff can help set up recurring donations, which for a shelter go toward the most basic expenses, he said.
“It can be very difficult to find grants for salaries and building costs, utilities — bills are the ugly part,” Bailey said. “Those and expenses are things that people don’t find attractive to donate to.”
With the expansion, Pathways is currently searching for paid staff, he said.
“Our staff runs the shelter,” Bailey said. “Our people, our case manager and our advocates, they’re the ones that are on the ground, helping folks find the services and housing that they need, and helping build life skills.”
The trick with an expansion is not doing too much too soon, he said.
“We have to be careful and respectful of our donors’ wishes and use their use their funding wisely to serve our mission,” he said. “It’s a delicate balance between expansion and being happy with what we have.”