By Josh Kattenberg
As part of the Leadership Sioux Falls program we took a tour of the St. Francis House which is a homeless shelter in Sioux Falls. St. Francis House is a unique combination of shelter and counseling. They provide much more than warmth from the elements.
When interacting with the homeless, their motto is Firm, Fair, and Friendly. For example, in order to stay at the shelter the residents must be drug, alcohol, and gambling free. They must be looking for a job and they have a set amount of time to find a job. Once they have a job, a percent of their paycheck must be put into the house savings account which is given back to the resident when they leave the shelter. In one instance a resident had saved over $13,000 by the time he left. Residents receive life skills training such as money management and job interview skills. Hot meals are served for free at the shelter, but residents are expected to pitch in and help with the cooking and cleaning. If someone does not qualify to live at St. Francis House or is not abiding by the rules, they are asked to leave. St. Francis House helps these people by providing free coats and blankets.
Overall I was impressed. Not only with the passion and caring exhibited by the staff, but also by their philosophy of charity. One of the staff members mention being influenced by a couple of books–Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help, And How to Reverse It, and When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor…and Yourself. I have since read When Helping Hurts and can see some of the principles of the book lived out by the St. Francis House. If you have a chance to take a tour or attend one of their benefits, it would be well worth your time.