A group of Black Hills State University students went door-to-door to nearly 500 Box Elder homes collecting demographic information that  will help a local nonprofit plan for  housing assistance needs to those in the area.

The students, all behavioral science majors, were gathering data for NeighborWorks Dakota Home Resources, a nonprofit organization that assists residents in the Black Hills and western South Dakota in providing safe, decent and affordable housing and revitalizing neighborhoods to improve the quality of life.

The residents surveyed live in an area deemed by the Air Force as an “Accident Potential Zone.”   These areas provide the possibility of noise related and aircraft accident harms to the individuals living there, according to Dr. Sandra Marker, BHSU associate professor of sociology.

“Neighborworks is hoping to assist the families who want to move out of that area into safer locations,” said Joy McCracken, executive director of Neighborworks Dakota Home Resources, one of more than 240 community development and affordable housing organizations nationwide. “We did the survey to try to determine what their housing needs are and what their household income ranges are so that we can look for programs and housing that might be available for them to consider as opportunities.”

Some residents may own their own trailers and want to stay, but their homes may need rehabilitation, McCracken said. The survey also provides demographic data to help Neighborworks determine if there is any assistance for those residents who don’t want to move.

McCracken said the BHSU students did a great job in providing their time and skills to do the survey. “It was a win/win with the students getting some experience for themselves,” she said.

Lisa Laudanskas, sociology and psychology major from Spearfish, said participating in the surveys provided a great foundation for research and the challenges that come with it. 

 “The most beneficial part of doing research for NeighborWorks was being able to experience firsthand the difficulties and disadvantages of doing survey research,” said Lisa Laudanskas, sociology and psychology major from Spearfish. “This learning experience will benefit me in the long run because now I know that survey research is hard work and that in order to gain anything from it, it takes time, patience and understanding that things may go wrong.”

Marker, Dr. Laura Colmenero-Chilberg, associate professor of sociology and Dr. Pamela Carriveau, associate professor of political science, assisted the students with the research.

Colmenero-Chilberg said the research project is something that will help students when applying to graduate school as well as in their future human services careers.

“This was a really good project for the students to be involved in,” Colmenero-Chilberg said. “With many of them in the human services areas they will need to get a hold of information like this when they are applying for grants. “

The surveys have all been complied and the report has been given to Neighborworks. McCracken said they are currently analyzing the data and seeking funding sources to assist in the different needs of the Box Elder residents.