Watertown Resource Center: Providing Shelter

The Watertown Resource Center domestic violence shelter has been serving the area for years. Clients arrive seeking to escape a bad situation, sometimes with little more than the clothes on their backs. Homeless doesn't begin to describe the situation these families find themselves in. "A lot of the people come through the doors with absolutely nothing," said Dawn Sikkink, Executive Director of the Watertown Resource Center. The six-bedroom facility supplies necessities such as shoes, clothes, shampoo, toothbrushes, hot food and a safe place to stay.

Once the client's immediate needs are met, the center's case workers and therapists work with families towards their long-term needs. They help families secure apartments, jobs, transportation, furniture, legal assistance and counseling. "We get support from the local community as well as funding from the Emergency Solutions Grant Program (ESG)," said Sikkink.

The Watertown center is one of the 22 agencies across South Dakota that receives ESG funds. The program, funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, is administered by SDHDA. The ESG program is not limited to domestic violence shelters. Any local agency or qualified nonprofit group that serves the homeless can apply for the grant.

In addition to providing for an individual's immediate needs, ESG funds can be used to renovate, maintain and furnish emergency shelters. The grant also has a homeless prevention component, allowing families to receive rental assistance, help with security deposits and utility payments.

Sikkink said the Watertown Resource Center has primarily used its ESG funds to provide essential services to clients and renovations to the shelter. However in 2014 the Center is looking into applying for funds under the homeless prevention component. "Since the Watertown Resource Center is only a 30-days shelter, finding a long-term solution for displaced families has a certain urgency," commented Sikkink.

The center's staff stays in touch with the people who have passed through their doors. "They want us to know they're doing well and moving forward with their lives," said Sikkink. "It's very gratifying for them to take steps forward – very rewarding."