Housing a major uncertainty for military members at Ellsworth

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. — Housing is a major issue in the Rapid City area, and perhaps even more so when you don’t get say in where you live.

On Thursday, the Ellsworth Housing Office laid out the problem for community members at the quarterly Black Hills Military Advisory Coalition Chow Hall Luncheon.

What is the Chow Hall Luncheon?

The Black Hills Military Advisory Coalition is a volunteer-driven group that works to strengthen the connection between the community and the military.

Through their three pillars, the BHMAC aims to improve the quality of life for service members and their families; increase community outreach and support; and continue to build on the thriving defense economy.

  • Defense Economy: Focuses on relationships, education and building upon the opportunities for business growth, entrepreneurship, research and development and workforce development related to the defense industry
  • Community Outreach: Serves the vital role of educating and engaging the community around the mission of our military installations in the area. This helps the community feel connected and informed on the mission and expectations of the airmen and soldiers stationed in the area.
  • Quality of Life: Focuses on issues impacting needs of local military members and families pertaining to those items people need to live and thrive in Black Hills, such as housing, education, career enhancement, relocation assistance and community connections.

These Chow Hall Luncheons are held every couple of months in Rapid City and are open to the public.

CLICK HERE for more information on how to get involved with BHMAC.

What does the housing situation look like?

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Base officials say that as of August 1, there are 146 service members on the waiting list for base housing at Ellsworth. It’s a four- to six-month wait, on average. That wait can be longer for those who need specific housing, like officers quarters.

Those who can find housing often have to spend hundred in application fees — applying to every rental in the area with an opening. Others live in campers — even over the winter.

Ellsworth’s Housing Program Manager says some incoming service members have turned to hotels until other housing becomes available, and others commute from as far away as Belle Fourche.

“There’s quite a few families that have just decided to not bring their families here with them for the time being until they secure housing, because it’s cheaper to find some place for one person than to have to house their whole family,” said Laura Frink, the manager of Ellsworth’s Housing Program.

This issue is forcing some members to leave their families behind.

What is being done to fix it?

With the problem likely to get worse as the B-21 mission nears, Ellsworth leadership has taken action. 28th Bomb Wing Commander Colonel Joseph Sheffield formed a housing working group, which reaches every section at Ellsworth and helps prepare incoming Raiders. They’ve been able to push for temporary lodging extensions, base rate matches for on-base lodging and work with lenders and builders to establish discounts.

“If you can, offer any kind of discounts, waived pet fees, waived application fees or discounted fees — anything to kind of give our military members a break,” Frink added.

Categories: ConnectCenter1-Military, Local News, South Dakota News