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Success Stories

Self sacrifice leads to safe housing for at-risk area youth

Michael Frye
Homeownership 2024
Rural Development
Joe Barb and his son outside their home in Rapid Valley

Joe Barb isn’t your typical citizen. He’s the type of guy that sees someone in need and doesn’t turn away. Instead, he offers support.

On a cold winter day during the COVID pandemic, Joe took his young son to the last barbershop in town that was still open. “I was talking to the barber, and I noticed a young person seeking refuge in the shop,” said Joe. “The barber said he just comes in to get warm.”

Joe learned the young person was not only homeless but that no one was looking after or caring for him. Joe approached him and offered help. It was then that Joe realized there wasn’t a tailored support system for at-risk youth within his community.

Joe recognized the signs of someone in need. At the age of 18, he himself was going through a rough time with his parents. “I met an attorney who helped me at a time of need. She mentored me, helped me get stabilized and put me back on a path of communication with my family,” said Joe. “It put me back on a good direction.”

If I’m going to do something, I should do it now

With the impact of COVID and his work being online, Joe didn’t like his job anymore. “It wasn’t the same as it was before COVID, and I thought if I’m going to do something, I should do it now,” said Joe.

He sold his house in Rapid City and moved to an apartment. Joe used the profits, some savings and even retirement funds to start the nonprofit Family Connections Center for at-risk youth.

Joe’s selfless sacrifice would require significant resources to get a nonprofit started. It also meant he created a sort of home insecurity for him and his son. “I never knew when rent would go up or I’d have to find a different place. I didn’t want to be a renter because it’s never quite your home,” Joe said.

Family Connections Center is a youth and young adult drop-in and transitional housing center. They provide supportive services, prevention, education, and community advocacy. The center helps those 16 to 24 years old experiencing housing insecurity search for an apartment, learn to budget, or fix a broken toilet. Joe said it’s all the things that a lot of us probably learned by osmosis growing up because you were around those things. “We even teach basic life skills like cooking classes and how to do laundry,” said Joe.

Like many homeowners, Joe had a goal to create generational wealth through home ownership, to someday pass his home down to his son. As Joe helped an individual search for housing, he found USDA Rural Development’s housing programs and realized he met many of the qualifications. He contacted the Single Family Housing program team and began the application process.

How much is the rent going to go up

Had it not been for Rural Development’s Direct Home Loan program, Joe said he wouldn’t have been able to afford his home. “It’s sitting down at a table in a home that’s yours and have a meal is probably the best experience anyone can ever have,” Joe said. “There's nothing the same in a rental situation because you are constantly worried of what happens when this lease is up, how much is the rent going to go up, is it going to be unaffordable.”

Joe’s new three-bedroom, three-bathroom, ranch-style home is situated in a small development known as Rapid Valley with about 100 other homes. He loves the community, the neighbors, the schools, and said he is very fortunate. “We will have 30 or maybe 40 years in this home. I will leave it to my son, and hopefully he’ll decide to live here when I’m gone,” Joe said.

I couldn't ask for more of my life

Joe’s homeownership means he plans to stay a long time to help area youth. “My goal is to see every youth move on to independent living, to move into their first place,” Joe said. “We’re starting to look at creating homeownership opportunities to create family homes, generational wealth, and reduce chronic homelessness in our communities. I may have temporarily given up my home, but I not only got a home, I also able to help other people find a home and I couldn't ask for more of my life.”

The Family Connections Center currently has more than 170 youth in transitional housing or supportive services. The center has helped more than 500 youth since its inception.

Obligation Amount:
Year(s) of Obligation:
Congressional District:
  • South Dakota: District (at Large)