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Western South Dakota Community Action Agency (WSDCAA) was incorporated in 1965 as 501(c)(3) non-profit organization for the purpose of conducting the Federal Office of Economic Opportunity’s War on Poverty in Rapid City, SD. The agency soon expanded to serve all of Pennington County, and since then has incorporated an additional 14 counties, including Bennett, Butte, Corson, Custer, Dewey, Fall River, Haakon, Harding, Jackson, Lawrence, Meade, Pennington, Perkins and Ziebach, all in the western half of the state, into its service area. Members of the low-income, government and civic sectors from each of these counties are represented on the Agency Board of Directors. In addition, staff collaborate with the Oglala Sioux Tribe, which provides community-based services to persons in Shannon County.

Historically, the Agency has undertaken anti-poverty programs and projects designed either at the national level, to meet needs that are widespread throughout the country, or designed within the Agency itself, in partnership with the low-income community, to meet needs unique to the local population. Many successful efforts, including Operation Mainstream, a job training program, Head Start, a detox program, and Legal Aid, were spun off. Today WSDCAA provides services through the Department of Energy’s Weatherization Program and a host of

programs and projects that address the needs that have been identified by the low-income population in the service area.

In aggregate, these counties are comprised of 29,741 square miles, nearly 50 percent of the State’s land base. They have a total population of 184,530 of which 26,469 is low-income. To serve this widely dispersed low-income population, the Agency has organized and nurtured a network of 14 low-income volunteer organizations comprised of over 200 volunteers. Most of these local organizations have been in existence for over 20 years. Under contract with the administrative office in Rapid City, these organizations deliver goods and services to the low-income populations in their counties on a totally volunteer basis. These goods and services are intended to address the ‘needs gap’ in the budgets of low-income households, which, for a minimum wage household of three, can mean an annual budget deficit (exclusive of the cost of health insurance) of a minimum of $4,000. In this manner, over 12,000 low-income people, or about 45 percent of the poverty population in the service area, is annually assisted in reducing, although not eliminating, their budget shortfalls.

In 2005, the Agency conducted a needs survey of the low-income population in its service area. The survey was mailed to over 6,400 addresses from the Agency client list and received a return of 1,777, or approximately 18 percent. About 68 percent of the respondents ranked housing as a primary need; 53.8 percent ranked education as a priority need; and 44.4 percent said business development was a need. While the Agency has programs and projects that address aspects of these needs, e.g. Weatherization, homeowner rehab, and small training and education loans, it has not yet systematically developed a basic strategy that helps low-income people assemble the capital to invest in homeownership, higher education or a business. The IDA program would take the Agency to the next step in assisting low-income households and individuals in exercising the discipline required to move more effectively toward substantial self-sufficiency.