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Archive for the ‘OKINI’ Category

ABC NEWS Has Come Through For Pine Ridge

Over a year ago, I was contacted by a researcher/producer for ABC News.  She had found one of my blog entries (in which I was chastising ABC for not paying attention to the disasters in the west, especially on the reservations).  She told me they were working on a Diane Sawyer prime time special in her “A Hidden America” series.  The prior one had been on life in Appalachia.  This time they were planning to profile Pine Ridge Reservation.

Those of you who have been reading my blog will know that there is not much that fires up my hopefully righteous passion more than talking about life on Pine Ridge Reservation.  So talk we did, for almost an hour.  And we emailed – resources that they might find helpful.

I had heard that Diane Sawyer was out on the rez this past summer when I was there (no, we didn’t happen to cross paths traveling the approximately 2 million acres on the rez.  But I did here that she went up to KILI Radio one of the days I was there.  Try to keep that quiet when you’re talking to DJ’s.

I am giving you a link to the promo for the show.  Please, if you have ever enjoyed or been moved by anything I have written, I implore you to watch the 20/20 program on Friday at 10 PM.  See with your own eyes the good and the bad of Pine Ridge.  You may not find it possible but this place does exist.  I have been there and I suspect they will not tell you the worst story nor show you the poorest homes.  But it will still be worse than you expect.  After all, the living conditions on Pine Ridge rival those in Haiti and the life expectancy on Pine Ridge rivals that of Burundi.

I work for an organization that works to support self-sufficiency – not an easy thing to have on Pine Ridge.  Many of us work to keep the dam from breaking by trying to improve the life of one person at a time.  The big picture can be truly overwhelming.

If you can’t watch the show when it airs, record it or have a friend record it for you.

I will be honest.  I prayed for someone with greater reach than mine to focus attention on the needs of Pine Ridge.  I did not know (or care) who it would be.  I am grateful to ABC News because I know that if more people see the conditions, they will be moved to respond.  I believe in the American people and I know in my heart that things can improve.  I do not have the answers but I know it can be done.

Thank YOU for helping them to raise awareness.  You can do that by sharing this blog post with everyone you know.

Oh yes, here’s the link to the promo:  http://abcnews.go.com/2020/video/hidden-america-children-plains-14708439#.TpOhj9LOE2E.facebook

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I spoke with a young mother last night to try to assist her.  She had moved from Oklahoma to Pine Ridge, SD to help care for her mother after her mom had some surgery.  Her mom has other medical conditions in addition to the one that required surgery, had been life-flighted off the reservation previously and certainly needed the extra help.  Her mom, however, has gone back to work early because of the dire need for income.

I said this was a young mother who moved back to Pine Ridge.  She did not come alone.  She brought her 4 children with her.  Her children range in age from 11 to 18.

It has been a culture shock moving from the Cherokee Nation, where her children are enrolled members, to the Lakota Nation, to which she has transferred her enrollment when she moved back there.

In Oklahoma, she was enrolled in a college program majoring in Criminal Justice.  Back in Pine Ridge, she is enrolled at the Oglala Lakota College, which does not have that major.  So she will have to choose something else to complete her degree.

When she and the children moved back, they were given her grandfather’s trailer to live in.  However, because neither he nor other family had a job, the electricity was shut off for lack of payment.  They were not the only ones, of course, so candles and generators in the neighborhood were the norm.  But generators take fuel, too, so they are run intermittently, as hot water is needed – not solely for TV or lights.  Apparently while she was at her mother’s home, the children had candle lit so they could see.  A neighbor had turned on a generator and did have the TV on while the water was heating.  So her children we to the neighbor’s house to watch TV . . . forgetting the candle.  Unfortunately, unattended candles can be a fire hazard and this one was no exception.  The trailer caught fire and burned down, taking all their possessions as well.  Even worse, they had some historic documents and items in the trailer which have now been lost to both the family and the tribe.  She is so saddened by that loss.

I explained to this mom that the family had been referred to us and explained both the sponsorship and OKINI programs.  I told her I would put them on both, with an emphasis on the OKINI due to their urgent needs.  She began to cry.  She apologized for the tears and said that it has been very difficult to get help through the tribe.  It seems that the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing, that no one communicates with anyone else and that there is “no money left” in any program.

She said that would never occur with the Cherokee Nation.  They are organized and it is easy to navigate their systems.  They are honoring and trying to maintain their culture while at the same time fitting in with the current day.  Moving back to Pine Ridge, from one Indian nation to another, has been a Native American culture shock!

She and her four children went to the tribe for assistance with housing after the trailer burned.  They were told that they qualified for assistance but it would take some time.  This young woman, who is strong and articulate, was not about to let her children be homeless.  They have moved into her great-grandmother’s “old house” that was built sometime around the 1900’s.  It is a house, but it is small!  It contains a kitchen and one other room.  The only furniture they have is a full-sized bed.  Since there are 5 family members, the 2 older children are going at night to sleep on their grandmother’s couch.  They have no appliances, no table or chairs, no food storage (no food for that matter) and very little clothing.  They do have someone who is willing to build another room onto the place if they can materials from they tribe (they are not holding their breath on that).

After we talked about all the hardships she and her children have been enduring, she proceeded to tell me the story of her pre-teen nephew.  Her brother, who still lives in Oklahoma, is the boy’s biological dad.  However, when the mother was pregnant with the boy, she left the biological dad and moved to Pine Ridge to live with another man.  She listed that man as the father on the boy’s birth certificate.  After a short time, she left that man . . . and left the boy with his non-biological father as well.

Apparently this boy has been abused since he was quite small — physically, mentally, emotionally (being told his biological father was dead after he found out about him) and perhaps sexually.  The boy finally called the police to try to find safety.  After a court hearing, they placed him back with the abuser.  The young woman fears for her nephew’s life and wants to help the boy.  But again she is frustrated by the lack of organization and lack of urgency she finds in the Oglala Sioux Tribe.  I have connected her to my Lakota friend, who has had a lot of experience with the juvenile system on the rez, as you know if you read my accounts on this blog.  I will try to give her other connections as I can.

This young woman is passionate, articulate, intelligent and driven to make a difference for her people.  I hope and pray that she will find a way to do that.

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You might be wondering what aspect of “Back to School” time I’m referring to when I talk about the blues.  Is it the perspective of the kids — summer’s gone and so is my freedom?  Or perhaps it’s parents — there goes relaxation and here we go with all the activities to which kids need to be chauffeured.  Summer’s gone and so is my freedom.

What I’m actually thinking about is the shopping that needs to be done.  My children are adults now, but I still recall having to buy new school clothes and supplies.  Heck, I recall when I was a child, there were new clothes every year when school began.  It was a rite of passage.

Yet things were different in my day.  I didn’t grow up in a well-to-do family.  Sometimes, especially when I was younger and didn’t have much “say” in what I wore, my mother would sew my clothes.  My grandfather worked in a cloth mill and brought my mother many remnants that would have been tossed out.  Free material and my mother’s skill kept me relatively fashionable.

There isn’t as much of that happening today.  Most kids shop, with or without parents, for all of their clothing.  They get to wear clothing that may be their size but is styled in adult fashions.  We wonder why they grow up too fast.  Brands become important — peer pressure and the media certainly help there.  Cost vs value for your money seems to be ignored as credit card balances rise.

School supplies (pencils, pens, paper, notebooks, crayons, etc, etc) are chosen far differently than when I was in school.  In fact, when I was in school, you didn’t have to buy much.  The school supplied most of your needs.  The first day of school, you were given pencils, crayons, a ruler and perhaps some other items.  The only things you needed to buy were what you might need at home to do your homework.

Today, we see parents and children with carts loaded with school supplies because schools no longer have the funds to supply those items.  Today it is parents who must find the cash (or raise their credit card balances again) to give their children the basic items they need for school.  Of course, it is no longer just the basics.  We now have designer back packs, a seemingly infinite choice of pencils and pens (and everything else) and a lot of “cutesy” items which only serve the purpose of making kids “cool.”

Most parents dive into this “back to school” preparation with abandon — either the abandon of joy because they are as addicted to the process as their children or the abandon of resignation because they have to get it done and over with.

There are some parents who cannot do this for their children.  I think of them every year now, when the “back to school” ads start appearing on TV and in print.  I am the one who watches for the “super deals” and heads to the stores for school supplies.  No not for my grandchildren; I don’t have any grandchildren.  I head to the stores to shop for the children of parents who dread the cost of “back to school” supplies.

They dread it because they have no money.  Now come on, you didn’t think I was going to just write a bit of drivel about going back to school in the “good old days,” did you?

I think especially about the parents on Pine Ridge Reservation.  Most are unemployed and subsist on tribal aid, government aid and the kindness of others (like you).  They have trouble paying for the basics in life — a roof over their family’s heads, food to put on the table, heat in winter, electricity.  Some have auto expenses, some have no auto because they can’t afford it.

But they want their children to get an education.  So they need to send school supplies to school with the children.  Where does the money to purchase school supplies come from?  I’ve been there and I know people there and your guess is still as good as mine.

For a lucky few, there is the OKINI list or a sponsor through ONE Spirit.  For a few others, there are other groups that will send some supplies out to one of the schools on the reservation.

I have sent things to individuals and through school supply drives (such as the one Friends of Pine Ridge Reservation has every year).  I watch the sales so I can get as much as possible for my money.  Otherwise, I won’t be able to afford to ship the supplies to the rez.  Thanks to whomever it was at the US Postal Service that came up with the idea for flat-rate boxes.  School supplies tend to be heavy!

So as you watch the “back to school” frenzy, think about the parents who are experiencing the true “back to school” blues.  Maybe you’ll be inclined to help them this year . . . maybe longer.  I know the economy  stinks right now but it is still stinks more for some than for others!

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You know who you are.  Your animals are your children.  You abhor any kind of cruelty or abuse of animals.  Some think animals have rights, some do not.  But all believe that animals have intelligence and feelings.

I fit in there somewhere.  I have a cat who is 16 years old and just now has started to “act old.”  It has made me suddenly aware of his mortality – he has always been such a healthy, strong little guy.  It also has given me a reawakened awareness of what big part of my life he is.  No, I can’t say I will spend thousands of dollars to keep him alive should he fall ill.  Nor can I say I would spend more to keep him alive than I would to help humans in need.  But I do love him and will mourn if he dies.  And I would never let anyone harm him.

I can see you now, either nodding in agreement or rolling your eyes.  If you’re rolling your eyes, it might be because you think I fall short of deserving to be called an “animal lover.”  You might be right.  You might also be rolling your eyes because you’re thinking I’ve been self-serving, inviting all of you animal lovers to me melancholy musings.  You would be wrong.

I doubt any of you who have read my posts regularly would think to call me self-serving – at least I hope not.

I was recently told about a 66 year old elder on the Pine Ridge Reservation who is an animal lover.  I was speaking to her daughter, who told me about her mother.  The daughter was concerned because her mother takes in strays and cares for them, providing a kind of shelter in a place where no shelter exists.  Her mother is often given pregnant animals, so she ends up taking care of the mother and babies until homes are found for the puppies or kittens.  I use the word “given” very loosely here because sometimes people do actually give her mother the animals directly but more often the pregnant animals are just dropped off in front of her house because of her reputation.

I understand that very well.  My parents lived out in the country and people would often drop off pregnant cats near their land.  During one time period, my mother had 22 cats/kittens that she was caring for and feeding because of other people’s irresponsibility and “generosity.”  I have never understood why some people think it is okay to drop what they perceive as their problem on someone else’s doorstep.

My mother had the means to care for the animals that came her way.  The woman on Pine Ridge Reservation does not.  She receives her Social Security benefits.  With that money, she feeds and attempts to provide health care for the cats and dogs that come her way.  Her daughter is concerned because her mother often does not have enough left to get the things she needs for herself.

This is where you come in.  I’m hoping for 2 things as a result of this post.  I would like to find a sponsor for this elder who will supply animal needs so she can use her fixed, small income to get what she needs for herself.  I’m talking pet food and items like that.

The other thing I’m hoping for is bigger – I am hoping that an animal aid group of some sort, perhaps right in South Dakota, would be interested in working with the tribe to establish a humane shelter and a way for those who own pets on the rez to have their animals neutered and vaccinated at little or no cost.  The best thing would be a “roving” clinic – an RV set up for veterinary care.  The distances are so great on the reservation and many people do not have transportation, so even if there was a veterinarian on the rez, it would be difficult for people to get there.

There are many pet owners on the reservation.  And just like anywhere else, some are more responsible than others.  Some keep their pets indoors, take good care of them and enjoy their company.  Others, however, allow their pets to roam – there are packs of dogs as well as individual strays.  The tribe does not have the money to “police” that problem.  Some people realize they cannot afford to feed and care for the animal, so they set the animal “free” to fend for itself.  Many do not make it.

In the whole scheme of the problems faced on the reservation, the plight of stray animals may not seem like it is high on the priority list.  But I know that, to a certain group of you who are reading this post (and hopefully passing it on to kindred spirits), that means that the kind of thing you find very important is being given no attention or funds.

If you care about these animals that no one else cares about or if you care about the woman who, like you, hates to see animals treated like worn-out shoes, you can help!

There are several ways to help.

–Sponsor the woman for pet needs.  To do this, contact ONE Spirit’s Sponsor Coordinator Regina Hay at rhay@nativeprogress.org and ask to be connected with the Area Service Coordinator for the Pine Ridge settlement.

–Sponsor the woman for her own needs (food, clothing, cleaning products).  You can do this in the same manner as above.

–Make one time donations of pet food through the OKINI program of ONE Spirit.  To do this, go to the ONE Spirit website http://nativeprogress.org and contact the OKINI program director.

–Find an organization that would like to take on the challenges of the bigger problems regarding the animal population on the reservation.  There are surely people with more expertise in this area than I claim to have.

Whatever you do, let other people know.  You may not be the one with a solution, but the next connection . . . or the next . . . or . . . you know what I mean.

 

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I know what you’re thinking — wait, I shouldn’t say that.  My mother used to say that to me when I was a teenager and I hated it!  She would always use that phrase when she was assuming that I was having stereotypical teenager thoughts — which I was never having because I was either too docile or too lame.  Probably the latter.  But I hated being told that I was thinking something I really wasn’t!

So, let’s start again.  It’s true, I haven’t been writing as faithfully as I usually do and now suddenly I’m inundating you with posts.  Sorry, that’s the way writing happens sometimes, especially when you’re doing it for free and your life is in a lull.

But some things have been happening lately that have stirred my interest.  You probably already read about my “godchild” on the rez and her good news.  Now I want to tell you about a family that really needs some good news.

I received an email from a young woman who lives in one of the areas I serve on the Pine Ridge Reservation (southwest SD, for any newcomers).  She asked if I would contact Carrie [made up name to make the story easier to follow], a friend of hers who lived in another area but was in need of assistance.  I let her know that I would.  She told me the family’s trailer had burned, a far too common occurrence.

I called Carrie.  I learned that she is a single mom with 3 children – a 19 year old son, an 11 year old daughter and a 5 year old daughter.  They had been living in the trailer prior to the fire and Carrie’s sister and child had lived with them.

Now they were homeless.

Her sister and niece/nephew (my bad – I don’t recall which) were living with other family now.

Carrie and her family had tried living with her former in-laws.  But the people in that home were drinkers.  She is not.  She did not want her children constantly exposed to that.  She did not want to worry that the few things they had after the fire might be stolen by a family member to sell/trade for alcohol.  It was not a peaceful home.

As you may be aware, there is a severe housing shortage on the reservation.  So finding another place to live is difficult at the best of times and nearly impossible in an emergency.

Carrie decided to borrow a tipi (English spelling: teepee) and set it up in a different district (for reasons I’ll explain in a bit – patience, please).  Allow me to describe the current living conditions and her requests when I called her.

She and the 3 children are living in the tipi which is set up in a grassy area.  They are sleeping on mats on the ground.  They have no bedding or blankets to speak of.  No running water, of course.  There is a hydrant nearby from which they can fetch water.  I suspect they will be building an outhouse.  No shower or bath, either.  They have no electricity and will not be able to get it for some time.  When the trailer burned, Carrie was behind about $300 on her electric bill.  The electricity had to be turned off due to the fire, of course.  So now, in order to get the electricity turned on anywhere else, there will be a $200 reconnect fee as well as the back bill which must be paid.  Carrie will have to find a little over $500 in order to get electricity for the tipi.  She says she does beadwork and has been given some beading supplies by a friend.  She will try to make some earrings to sell for the electric money and to buy more bead supplies.  You see, her supplies were in the trailer when it burned.  So basically, her income went up in smoke!

What do you think was the first thing Carrie asked for?  . . . . .{Jeopardy music} . . . . . Whatever you guessed was probably wrong – sorry about that.  The first thing she asked for was something to cut the grass around the tipi because it’s getting long and the snakes are out.  Yeah, my very thought – I’d want the lawn mower or whatever too!  Then she said, maybe rakes or a shovel.

After the lawn mower came the requests you would expect:  mattresses, bedding, towels, plates and utensils, pots and pans, clothing.  Lastly, in a kind of apologetic tone, perhaps some art supplies for beading.

I placed the family on the OKINI list (in case you are thinking of offering assistance).  Kari, the OKINI coordinator for ONE Spirit, was surprised by the lawn mower request, too.  It was a first for her.  (You can reach Kari at keovensen@nativeprogress.org).  Then I forwarded the family’s information to the area coordinator for the district she is in.

Now, back to the reason for moving to a different area.  Carrie and her family had been participating in a peaceful civil protest at the time that her trailer was burned.  I used those words intentionally, because it is believed that the fire may have been arson.  She thinks that it may have been related to the protest in some way.  She wanted to be away from that area when she set up a new home.

I do not get into politics on this blog if I can avoid it, so I’m not going to comment on the merits of that belief.  I can say that, once a fire is started on the rez, the distances from fire trucks and personnel, the prairie winds and the poor condition of the substandard housing usually results in a total loss of the property — both home and personal belongings.

This kind of thing doesn’t get attention from the national media because it is a single occurrence, not an entire town wiped out by a tornado.  Yet it is still as traumatic for the people involved.  I have done what I could officially to help by putting them on the OKINI list and getting them signed up for sponsors.  But I wanted to do more.  So I am writing this for you to read and think about.

And maybe pass along.

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What do you suppose are the items that I get the most emergency calls for from the reservation?

In the winter, you might guess heating fuel.  Actually that would not lead the list.

You might guess food or payment of utility bills (electricity, phone).  You’d be wrong again.

What about clothing?  Nope!

Okay, before you get too upset, I’ll tell you.  The greatest number of requests are for the necessities of life that cannot be paid for with food stamps or WIC vouchers.  Those items include:

  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Body soap
  • Toothpaste/toothbrushes
  • Feminine hygiene pads
  • Diapers
  • Dish soap
  • Laundry soap
  • Toilet paper
  • Trash bags
  • Housecleaning products

How many of you cannot afford to buy toothpaste or shampoo after you pay your rent and utilities and buy food?  I suspect not many.

ONE Spirit has a program for folks who don’t yet have sponsors (in my areas alone there are hundreds!) to help supply these kind of emergency needs.  We don’t have programs for utilities.  But the necessities are the kinds of things one time donors can help with.

OKINI is a Lakota word meaning to share material things.  That is the name of the program where these needs are listed.  We list clothing too, because that is the other thing requested — especially for children.  The most requested clothing item?  Shoes.  I’ll bet you can afford shoes.  Can you imagine not being able to buy shoes for yourself or your children?

So how do I handle all these requests?  I pass the buck . . . actually, I pass on the information to the OKINI manager.  It goes all the way to Norway — thank goodness for the internet!  Kari, the OKINI coordinator, puts the items on the list, discretely omitting last names and identifying information.  It is a private list, not open to the general public.  You wouldn’t want the fact that you needed sanitary pads and couldn’t afford to buy them advertised to the whole world via the internet, would you?!

People who are interested in helping improve living conditions on the Pine Ridge Reservation but who do not feel able to become a direct sponsor for a child or elder can contact Kari to become part of the OKINI family.  In essence, donors via OKINI are indirect sponsors.  They improve the lives of those who want a sponsor but do not yet have one.

So what do you say?  Can you afford to buy shampoo or dish detergent or laundry detergent?  Can you afford to buy a child a pair or shoes or school supplies?  Can you afford to send a book or some yarn to an elder?

If you truly cannot, then I am very sad for you and I hope your circumstances improve soon.

If you said you can afford one of those things, I will give you the information you need to contact Kari and get started in the OKINI program.  It will be rewarding.  You might even get a thank you note, though there are no promises there.

Worried about shipping costs?  It can get expensive to send things off.  But the flat rate boxes the US Postal Service offers are great!  And many online retailers, like Amazon, offer free shipping directly to the recipient if you meet order requirements.  There are ways to keep those costs down.

If you’re still with me, you can contact Kari at her ONE Spirit email address:  koevensen@nativeprogress.org .  She will contact you to fill you in.

Kari tells me donations have been slowing down.  It may be the economy or the season . . . but I can tell you the requests don’t slow down.  The need for these items never slows down for those with such limited resources.

OKINI . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . it’s pronounced Oh-key-knee

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It has been a very quiet few days and I actually had begun to get a bit lazy.  I should know better.  It’s always quietest before all chaos occurs.

The day started unusually – I overslept.  But at that point I wasn’t worried because I didn’t have much to do.  Got up and fed the cat first – patience is NOT one of his virtues!  Turned on the computer to check my mail and the obituaries, then decided it was time for a later than usual shower.

In the middle of the shower, I heard the phone ring and someone left a message.  Little did I know it was the start of a much busier day than I expected when I awoke.

I got the message after I dressed.  It was my Lakota friends calling.  They needed me to call back.  So I did . . . and the line was busy.  Sigh.  I checked my ONE Spirit mail – nothing new.  I really should reply to the one email sitting there.  But I should try calling my friends again first.  Busy still.  I tried calling another friend – a local one – left a voice mail message.  Back to calling the rez.  Finally, a ringing phone!

I spoke to my friend’s husband.  He was very excited at having been to Bismark, ND to represent Oglala Lakota College, which he attends, as a member of the archery team at the Tribal Colleges National Conference (http://www.uttc.edu/news/story/040111_01.asp).  OLC placed third in archery.  There were many other competitions (results can be seen here: http://aihec.sittingbull.edu/AIHEC%202011%20Forms/AIHEC%202011%20Winners.pdf) and he was gone for 5 days.

Unfortunately he returned to find that he and his wife were again homeless.  They had been living in a trailer that belonged to my friend’s mother.  Sadly, on the rez, when you live in the home of a family member, you are at the mercy of his or her moods and whims.  The relationship between my friend and her mother has never been a smooth one.  This kind of thing had happened before.  So they borrowed a truck, packed their things and moved back to his mother’s house (which ironically is where they were living when we first met them).

Even more irony comes when you learn the reason that they were told to move out of the trailer.  My friend’s are some of the more responsible people who I have known on the reservation.  They try to spend their money carefully and pay their bills.  However, many of my friend’s relatives do not.  Since her husband is a full-time college student and she cannot find work, their income is very limited.  As they pay their bills, they watch my friend’s mother support others in the family who do not pay their bills.  So they decided for one month to do the same.

My friend’s mother started telling people immediately that they didn’t pay their bills and told them to leave the trailer she was renting to them – or she would call the police to remove them.  My friend, alone without her husband, was broken-hearted.  Her mother had done it to her again.  You can imagine the scene when her husband arrived back home.

They were calling me to get help with buying some propane for his mother, where they would now live for a while.  I checked my funds and called the gas company to get a delivery.  Then I made out a check to pay for the gas and got it ready to mail.  The company didn’t take credit cards over the phone.  But they will deliver the gas before the check arrives.

I had just finished that when I got a call from the woman (I’ll call her Jane but that is not her real name) I wrote about yesterday, the one with whom I was dreading to speak.  If you didn’t read yesterday’s post (shame on you), Jane had just delivered a baby 2 weeks ago and now was in the process of being evicted for not paying her rent.  You can see why that would not be a conversation to look forward to.

I explained to Jane that ONE Spirit did not pay for rent or utilities.  We talked for quite some time and I got a lot of new information.  She needs to pay $91 by the end of the month or she will be evicted.  $91 is her monthly rent for the one bedroom apartment she shares with her children.  She had been on the waiting list for tribal housing but when she got to the top, she was taken off because she owed back rent.  The total amount the rent is in arrears is $370.50.

I asked her about her resources.  She receives food stamps in the amount of about $400 per month, WIC for the children and TANF (tribal assistance for those with children which requires the parent to work for the tribe) in the amount of $300.  She recently bought a car with her tax refund money so she can return to work.  It was a good thing she did – she drove herself to the hospital when she delivered her baby 2 weeks ago.  She does not receive child support from the father of either child.

She has a 2 year old son and a 2 week old daughter.  Since she worked until her due date, she will be paid TANF for the month of April.  She says she can get paid for 2 months additional without working, but must then return to work or the tribe will discontinue the assistance.  She wants to go back to work as a flagger for road construction crews but would need to use the tribal day care if she did.  She is not sure she would make enough to cover the day care for 2 children and still have money left over to pay the bills.

As we talked, I had an idea for a source of assistance – someone I know that might be able to help.  I will be seeing that person tonight and see what I can do.  I made her no promises, except that I would continue to pray for a solution.

Later I called a new sponsor and discussed her interests and the sponsorship program.  I could feel that I was different today when I talked about sponsoring.  Maybe it was because I knew that there are some things even sponsors can’t fix or solve.  I called a mother on the rez to let her know I had a sponsor for her daughter.  I’ll get the paperwork out on that in the morning.

In the meantime, I put Jane on the OKINI list (the program for donors who do not want to develop a relationship with the person being helped) for personal care products like shampoo and toothpaste.  Perhaps getting a few things that aren’t covered by food stamps will allow her to shift some of her money to the rent portion of her budget.

I was going to write about the articles I saw today that spoke of cell phone vs landline use in South Dakota and the price of gas in the Rapid City area hitting $4/gallon.  Those are two things that impact the lives of people on the reservation – they have to travel so many miles just to get from one part of the rez to another and they are coming to depend on cell phones in spite of the fact that South Dakota overall uses landlines more than cell phones.  But those phone calls took my attention away from the “smaller” problems and turned it to the really big ones.

So the theme of my day turned into homelessness and potential homelessness.  It is one of the hardest things on the reservation for so many people who do not have homes of their own and must rely on relatives to give them a roof over their heads.  The official statistics of homelessness on the reservation do not reflect the true number of truly homeless people.  I think many of the other problems on the rez stem in good part from overcrowding in the homes of those who are lucky enough to have their own home (the other big source of the problems is the lack of available jobs).

This is one BIG problem that I cannot solve.  All I can do is try to help a couple of people stay afloat until someone else finds that solution.

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