Native Americans dominate Rapid City's homeless population and waiting lists at the Pennington County Housing office, and officials from education to employment to healthcare, say that a lack of stable housing is at the root of hardships facing many Native American residents of Rapid City.
In South Dakota as a whole, Native Americans own homes at nearly half the rate of their white counterparts and at a slightly lower rate than other people of color. Federal data averaged for the years 2009 through 2013 shows that 36.9 percent of South Dakota's Native Americans own homes compared to 71.6 percent of whites and 38.2 percent of other people of color. The Census estimates that during the period between 2006 and 2010, approximately 30.4 percent of the city’s 2,235 Native households owned their own home, well below the statewide average.
For Native Americans who own or rented a home in Rapid City between 2006 and 2010, just over 61 percent are considered burdened by housing costs, meaning that households pays more than 30 percent of its income to keep a roof overhead. According to a city report, somewhere between 31.2 and 53.1 percent were "severely burdened," meaning they pay more than 50 percent of their income for housing.
About 2 percent of Rapid City's Native Americans with housing are considered to live in substandard housing, according to Census estimates, meaning they have inadequate plumbing. Meanwhile, less than 1.5 percent of the Native community is considered to live in overcrowded housing, according to the federal data. But these estimates are very imprecise and have high margins of error.
At the same time, Native Americans dominate Rapid City's homeless population, according to the "point in time" survey conducted by the South Dakota Housing for the Homeless Coalition. The 2014 survey found that, of the city's homeless individuals, more than 75 percent were Native American. Of the 225 homeless children and adults identified in a January 2014 survey, 170 of them were Native. Of those 170, 26 individuals had no shelter at all while 144 were considered sheltered in some way.
Given the prevalence of low incomes, Native Americans are far more dependent on public housing assistance in Pennington County. American Indians account for two-thirds of the households in public housing, compared to one third for whites, despite the fact that Natives comprise 9.9 percent of the county's population.
Native Americans also accounted for 58 percent of those waiting for Section 8 rental assistance - 1,302 of a total wait-list population of 2,243 in October 2014. Whites on the waiting list numbered 816 and other people of color totalled 125.
The housing situation is even more stark when it comes to the waiting list for public housing units provided by Pennington County Housing, also from October 2014. The 1,653 Native Americans on that waiting list accounted for more than 66 percent of the 2,483 Pennington County residents hoping for access to public housing units. Whites numbered 726 while other people of color accounted for 104. It's likely that the vast majority of those on the waiting list will remain there, due to low turnover rates for the available public housing spots. In an average year, 269 Section 8 rental assistance spots and 127 public housing units become available.
About the Series
The Black Hills Knowledge Network's Native Data Series examines what the available data shows about Native Americans living in the Black Hills region of South Dakota. As the state's and region's largest racial minority, the data often shows distinct differences from the white majority in some categories, while in other categories the data shows close similarities. This series seeks to examine both situations so we all can better understand, respond to and plan for decisions that would affect Natives and non-Natives alike.
-Prepared by Denise Ross & Eric John Abrahamson