Sioux Falls, SD
Most people in KELOLAND are able to count on having a safe place to rest each night. But this isn't the case for everyone.
The Bright Futures
program in Sioux Falls works to provide a little extra assistance to those struggling until they can manage on their own.
These little moments of joy are familiar to all parents. But this environment, a home of her own just for her family, hasn't always been familiar to 25-year-old Jadon Peynetsa of Sioux Falls. That is until she learned about Bright Futures.
"I actually had a friend that was on the program, and she was like, 'Are you ready to get into your own place?' I said, 'Well I've been wanting to, but I just, I don't know how, just because it was hard being a single mom, staying at my mom's, trying to help with all the necessities for that household, and it was hard working just to pay for diapers and gas and stuff, and she was like, 'Well, I'm working with this lady, her name is Elda,' and she gave me her phone number," Peynetsa said.
Peynetsa joined Bright Futures in early 2017, and now lives in northwest Sioux Falls. Program participants put 30 percent of their income toward rent, and a housing voucher funds the rest. But Bright Futures is much more than that for its participants. There are required classes and weekly meetings with someone called a housing stabilization coach, like Elda Person.
"Bright Futures is a program that helps to get the homeless off the streets and into their own place. But not only that, it helps to build them up so that they can get an education, or get better jobs, so that they can support their families without help," Person said.
"I love Elda, I don't know if you want to call her like a second mom, but that's kind of what it feels like, 'cause we talk, even when it's not our day to meet. We'll talk, we'll text, we'll call each other, I'll be like, 'Hey Elda this is what's going on, I just want you to know, it's so exciting, and she'll be like, 'Good I'm happy for you,'" Peynetsa said.
"Bright Futures gives these families case management, so they have weekly meetings with a coach who helps them with the job application process, coaches them on sort of broader money management and budget keeping, and then they also attend classes about tenant rights and responsibilities, parenting, sort of the gamut of life skills that again help maintain that stability," Augustana Research Institute Director Suzanne Smith said.
The institute evaluated Bright Futures in a recently released report
. Bright Futures has meant a lot to this single mother's world.
"Oh my gosh, it has helped me learn how to save money, focus on what is important as far as like being a renter, being a stable parent or even just a stable person by myself, they have helped me with classes as far as household stuff," Peynetsa said.
It's more than just dollars and cents.
"When I think back on it, from where I was, I am so proud of myself, I am so proud of myself. I can not believe that I'm doing this," Peynetsa said.
But she is.
"It makes me feel like mom of the year to myself and my kids," Peynetsa said.
"Their self-esteem grows, they feel better about themselves, 'cause they're accomplishing so much," Person said.
A bright future isn't so much down the road as it is happening right now for Peynetsa and her kids.
"They know that they have their own room, they know that they have food to feed themselves, they got so many toys and clothes and they live in a clean house, so they're, I know that they're grateful because of how happy they are," Peynetsa said.
These smiles and laughs couldn't lie.
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This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
A misspelling was corrected in this story.