Wounded Knee is working on building a “safe house,” a place where up to 10 children in need of a place to stay for the night can come, whether because of abuse at home or not having heat or other critical resources. The building is basically complete, but Phelps is working on hiring a staff member to run it.
But even those on the reservation who can afford to buy propane to heat their homes typically can’t afford as much as it takes to keep a house livable when temperatures are drop below zero, said Bob Claussen, owner of Bob’s Gas, a company in Martin, South Dakota, that makes the 45-mile trek to the reservation when it’s able. Claussen said he typically gets around 15 “small” orders for propane ― about $150 worth of propane at a time. But that can last only about three weeks, he said.