Lakota Country Times: Oglala Sioux Tribe debuts veterans housing

The Oglala Sioux Tribe hosts a grand opening for veterans housing in the Fraggle Rock neighborhood in Pine Ridge, South Dakota, on Friday, May 13. Photo by Lakota Country Times

Pine Ridge Vets Receive Housing
5 homes in Fraggle Rock, potential 21 units
By Tom Crash
Lakota Country Times Correspondent

PINE RIDGE – “We have a great opportunity here," said Paul Iron Cloud, executive director of Oglala Sioux Lakota Housing.

"Last year in 2015, Congress authorized a pilot project for Veterans Affairs Support Housing (VASH) in Indian Country,” said Iron Cloud. “We designated five of our Title VI houses to be the first five VASH houses, located at Fraggle Rock in south Pine Ridge. We’re having a grand opening on Friday, May 13 at 11:30am.”

Veterans Affairs has committed 20 vouchers to Pine Ridge -- the first five will pay the rent on the five Title VI houses and the 15 remaining vouchers will be used as leverage to secure a loan to build four four-plexes, also to be located in the Fraggle Rock neighborhood. The VASH units need to be near an approved veterans clinic or hospital, added Iron Cloud.

The Title VI homes are three bedroom 1,200 square foot homes for veterans and their families. The four-plexes will be smaller, 400 square ft. efficiency apartments for a single veteran or a vet and a small family. They will have two bedrooms, one bath, there will be a pad and a fenced in community backyard.

Interested vets submit applications to OSLH where an initial background check is done with a review of sex offender lists, then the applications go to the VA where they check additional information, evaluate income then rate the application and prioritizes them. One of the priorities is being at risk for homelessness.

“Vouchers can go to the individual vet or to a house, because we really don’t have any available rental homes or trailers, the vouchers will go to housing and allow us to build the four-plexes,” said Vince Martin, Oglala Sioux Lakota Housing assistant director. “We’re already advertising the Architecture and Engineering and as soon as we have a design, we’ll be able to secure a loan, hopefully start construction this fall with completion in the spring of 2017.”

Currently, there have been five applications submitted -- two have been sent on to the VA, three others are still at housing. The Title VI/VASH houses in Pine Ridge will be available by May 9 with first vets to move in after the grand opening on the 13th.

For the rest of the Title VI project, families have already moved into the five houses in Batesland and the five in Oglala will be available for moving in after May 9. Work on the five houses in Manderson and Porcupine continues. The remaining 20 homes are to be set before winter, Martin, Allen, Wanblee then Kyle; the state’s schedule is to deliver two Governor’s homes a week over the next 10 weeks.

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“This is pretty awesome, I was looking for a better place to live, I went out to Porcupine and the Lakota Properties Management office, filled out all of the paperwork and ended up first on the list,” said Dani Conroy, a mother of three and a 12 year veteran of the OST Department of Public Safety, “I love the house, it’s a huge step up. My rent payment comes right out of my paycheck, it is so nice pulling into your own yard.”

The Lakota Properties Management was set up to specifically to handle the Title VI homes and the 18 RIF homes. A different set of requirements were put in place -- applicants need to be an enrolled member, pay a security deposit up front, show evidence of a good credit history, evidence of paying on time, have no negative judgements, a history of paying rent on time, pass a criminal background check, take one or more financial literacy classes and demonstrate a willingness to participate with the Lakota Properties Management requirements, said Martin.

“We need to reach a point that all of us recognize that each house that we put up or obtain is a valuable resource to not only the family residing in the house but also to the Oglala Lakota Nation,” said Iron Cloud.. "As we work hard to develop additional housing opportunities to meet the incredible need on this reservation, as many as 3-4,000 homes, we need to work hard to maintain our homes and ask every tenant to be accountable and responsible for this valuable resource.”

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Lakota Country Times: Oglala Sioux Tribe assists veterans with housing (05/04)

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