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Compassionate care re-envisioned with Camp Mni Luzahan sobriety rules

“One of the largest differences is people can come here intoxicated. If you’re a person who you live with the bottle, you drink. There’s not really many services set up in Rapid City to take care of people.”
Published: Jan. 7, 2021 at 4:46 PM MST
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - Rapid City has a number of groups and services dedicated to the homeless population, each with the same goal, helping but with different ways of getting there.

Rapid City’s Cornerstone Rescue Mission and The Hope Center have been around for a number of years, with built-in plans on how they want to help the homeless population. Recently, Camp Mni Luzahan was added to the mix.

“We’re first-timers and so we’re always willing to learn and we’re always evolving,” said Sunny Red Bear, a camp volunteer and director of racial equity at NDN Collective. “Every day we’re learning something new, a better way to do things. So part of asking the community for their support is also asking for their grace.”

Cornerstone and the Hope Center are Christian-based and have a sobriety policy. Camp Mni Luzahan does not have the same rules.

“One of the largest differences is people can come here intoxicated. If you’re a person who you live with the bottle, you drink. There’s not really many services set up in Rapid City to take care of people,” said Mark Tilsen, a camp volunteer. ”We’re not an outside Christian group who’s trying to convert these folks and then get them on the path of sobriety. If people want to sober up, it’s cool. And if people come as they are, we still do our best to care for them and accept them.”

Lysa Allison, Cornerstone’s executive director, said they also take people as they are, with the goal of helping them move out of their current situation.

“We do work with people in recovery, we do hold people accountable with compassion, that’s how change happens is when people are held accountable and don’t go back to the old lifestyle and we help them find employment,” said Allison. “We’ll drive them to interviews, we get them interview clothing, we house them, we have grants that help pay for a couple of months rent, so we’re with them for the long haul.”

At Camp Mni Luzahan, the goal is more short term. Volunteers are currently focusing on helping people survive the winter, leaving future plans up to each person.

“That’s kind of more of an organic process, that’s up to the individual,” said Tilsen. “This is part of society. The street is part of society.”

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