Journey On in Rapid City prepares to expand team, resources thanks to federal grant

Outreach Team Member Mega Listening To Residents As They Check In On Them Whil On DutyRAPID CITY, S.D.– From December through most of the year so far, Rapid City’s Journey On program has responded to more than 7,000 non-emergency calls that would have previously gone through the Rapid City Police Department. And with the program to receive a portion of a federal grant for the city, Director of Operations Toby McCloskey spoke out on what it means for continued operations.

What is the grant Journey On is receiving?

Beginning in January, Journey On is receiving a portion of the $2,000,000 Community Violence Intervention and Prevention Initiative Grant announced earlier this month from the United States Department of Justice. Other organizations in the community receiving funding from the grant include Wambli Ska and the Red Ribbon Skirt Society.

Why is Journey On important to the community?

The mission of Journey On is such:

To support vulnerable individuals experiencing or likely to experience homelessness in Rapid City, South Dakota though collaborative street outreach, case management, and culturally responsive programming.

Through having lived similar experiences, McCloskey and members of the program serve the homeless community as what they call “resource navigators” and assist them in any way they can, along with resources like transportation to appointments or wherever they need to go. Thanks to their easy-to-identify green outfits, they have come to be known as the “green genies.”

“We let them know that we are not trying to force a lifestyle change, but we are there to let them know that we are there for the time that they realize that they need that lifestyle change,” McCloskey said. “So when they look over their shoulder, they will see a green genie.”

What are their plans to do with the funding?

Currently, members like McCloskey are working multiple positions to keep things running for the community on a Monday through Saturday basis. “I run the Journey On line, I am the Daytime Supervisor and I am the Director of Operations, so I’m doing three job titles at once,” he explained. “Now that we got the grant, we’ll be able to expand that aspect of getting the right people in the right spots and then get them trained up and well informed. And we go from there.”

The plans are to include the additions of a transport team with its own vehicle, separate from the two outreach teams that go around the community. More staff hires are also in the works. However, the most important hire at the moment is for an operator to handle calls and communicate with the outreach groups on-staff. On a Sunday alone, the one day they do not operate, McCloskey estimates calls reaching as high as in the hundreds, with enough space to only reach between 15 and 20 voicemails. This operator will make it so that teams do not have to return as frequently to field calls for service.

What are their hopes for the future of the program?

For Toby McCloskey, he hopes to one day see this program continue to grow and show signs of impact on the community to the point where Rapid City sets a precedent for communities nationwide with locations in large cities coast-to-coast.

Every time I feel that we’re making a change is when we pick our head up, just to look up, just to take a deep breath. Then we realize ‘okay, change is happening,’ but that’s just brief. Then we get focused back on the path at hand. What needs to get done.”


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