Building the Future: New Housing Helps Employees Make their Careers at Red Cloud



ABH housing



Adrianne Brave Heart has worked at the heart of Red Cloud’s advancement efforts for over five years. She also sends her daughter to Red Cloud’s elementary school, because she believes in the education it provides. But there was a moment when she thought she might have to leave Red Cloud behind. Because they couldn’t find better housing options, she and her husband were driving more close to 180 miles a day from their home in Rapid City to Red Cloud’s campus to get to work.

“It was really challenging. We were truly living paycheck to paycheck, so that we could afford the gas we needed to get back and forth,” said Adrianne. “And it was particularly hard on my daughter. She had no down time—it was always get home, do homework, go straight to bed. We didn’t have much quality time together.”

When she first started at Red Cloud, there was some limited housing available for staff—and Adrianne immediately got on the waitlist. When a unit finally became available, it dramatically changed her experience, both at work and at home.

“It’s been one of the best things for us. I can walk to work, my daughter can walk to school—and we have so much more time together as a family,” she said. “Our economy, and the remoteness of the reservation, makes housing a real challenge, and there’s a critical need for more. It makes an enormous difference for employees and their families.”

Adrianne’s struggle to find housing on the reservation isn’t at all uncommon. Today there are waves of young people—including many Red Cloud graduates—who hope to live and work the reservation after finishing college. They want to serve their community as health care providers, advocates and programs administrators, counselors and educators, and so much more. But the severe housing shortage here often prevents them from following those dreams.

Of the thousands of people living on the reservation, housing is only available for a quarter of that population. Overcrowding and homelessness are common. And what housing is available is frequently substandard, sometimes lacking basic water and sewage systems, insulation, and heating systems.

The lack of affordable and safe housing on the reservation often presents an insurmountable barrier for those who want to live and work here. That reality has a particularly powerful impact on education. Research shows that one of the main contributing factors to poor outcomes for Native students is the extreme challenge of recruiting and retaining qualified, effective teachers. Pine Ridge is consistently designated as a federal “Teacher Shortage Area;” the lack of housing is one of the core reasons why.

To change that narrative, Red Cloud is focusing on investing in new on-campus housing—as a means for retaining committed teachers and staff members who want to make their careers at Red Cloud. With support from partners across the country, a plan is being implemented to significantly increase the number of housing units Red Cloud could offer to its employees.;

And today on campus, the results are taking shape. New housing units are in the process of construction, including new one- and three-bedroom units that can accommodate different family sizes. Three Governor’s Homes were purchased from the State of South Dakota, which are built by state penitentiary inmates to help them to gain critical skills and experience. Upon completion these homes are trucked for seven hours across the state and delivered. Red Cloud is constructing basements and running electrical, water, and sewer lines to these homes—and soon, that process will be completed.

All together, Red Cloud has increased its number of available staff housing units by 41%. And there is more to come. Over the next few months, two new homes on the campus of Our Lady of Lourdes, Red Cloud’s second elementary school in Porcupine, increasing the available housing units on that campus by 31%.

These houses are quickly becoming homes—for staff members like Adrianne. And they will serve as homes for Red Cloud families for many generations to come.

Photos © Red Cloud Indian School



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