An entire neighborhood faces eviction in Custer
UPDATE (10/4) — After meeting with Department of Corrections staff this morning, residents at the STAR Academy have been given lease extensions.
After hearing from impacted families at the campus, Gov. Kristi Noem agreed that finding housing in the Custer area on short notice is difficult. Gov. Noem’s office said that she is willing to take on some of the liability in order to help the families affected by the eviction. The Department of Corrections will be taking on costs associated with insurance, maintenance, infrastructure, utilities, and grounds and maintenance staff.
Residential leases for families at the STAR Academy campus have been extended to March 1, 2020.
CUSTER, S.D. – Eleven families near Custer are being forced to leave their homes by the end of the month. The sudden eviction has left a community confused and concerned.
Just a few days ago residents throughout the STAR Academy community received a notice of lease termination.
“October 31 is our last day here so we’re sort of scrambling around trying to figure out where we’re all going to go next,” said Steve Leonardi, who is a leaseholder.
A former juvenile detention center, the STAR Academy campus sits on over 100 acres of land near Custer.
After the detention program closed 3 years ago, the land was sold to SLIC-e Holdings LLC. SLIC-e Holdings allowed an art program to rent out the main building and families rented out the homes throughout the property.
SLIC-e breached their contract by failing to make an annual payment on May 1. The state gave them several opportunities to make a late payment, but it never happened, and the property was repossessed.
Now the state says it will sell the property.
“It’s really hard to move when you have family and pets,” said Katherine Wilkinson, a resident.
Ahead of the sale, the state Department of Corrections (DOC) is forcing all the residents out. As of now, the DOC has authority over the property.
“This has convinced me that I will never again work with the state government in any way shape or form because I don’t trust them,” said Leonardi.
Some of the residents have already found homes and others are having more trouble. Several residents say they enjoy living in a quiet area and don’t want to leave and go to a bigger town.
The notice of lease termination states that there will be a representative available on the campus on October 4 to answer questions.
The representative will be there from 10 a.m. to noon.