Simplified: Sioux Falls' existing homeless shelters are hitting capacity, and even with new daytime support from South Dakota Urban Indian Health, nonprofit leaders are concerned about what unhoused people will do overnight as the temperatures continue to drop.
Why it matters
- It's been over a year since the city convened a task force to study homelessness in Sioux Falls.
- That task force resulted in some additional city funds to help, including a $175,000 grant to South Dakota Urban Indian Health to help expand its Wo'Okiye Project, a culturally specific effort to offer direct outreach to unhoused people. In October alone, SDUIH had 530 drop-ins to its downtown space where people can grab coffee, nap or just have space to hang out, CEO Michaela Seiber said.
- That's great, during business hours. But overnight, the options for shelter haven't really changed despite increasing rates of homelessness, according to Madeline Shields, executive director of the Bishop Dudley Hospitality House.
"We're always over capacity," Shields said. "We start checking people in at 6:30 every night. Sunday night by 7 o'clock we were at 155 people, and we had 14 more in line. That's the dilemma we're in."
Tell me more
The good news is that unhoused people are finding connections to community resources through places like Bishop Dudley and SDUIH.
"We see people are coming back more and more," Seiber said. "They come to access sobriety groups, sign up for medicaid or figure out how to reconnect with their family."
- Case workers also work closely with the court system to help ensure cases get resolved, figure out warrant resolutions, etc.
The not-so-good news is that at night time, there are people who just have nowhere to go.
- Once Bishop Dudley fills for the night, Shields said her team is working with the Union Gospel Mission, the Helpline Center and the county to try to find options for folks.
- Some find placements, she said. Others who have access to a vehicle will sleep there. But not everyone.
"There are people who just walk away, and we don't know where they go," Shields said. "Unfortunately, that's the reality."
How can I help?
The biggest needs right now at both SDUIH and Bishop Dudley are for warm clothes, quality gloves, hats, etc. There's also always a need for basic essentials like socks, underwear, shampoo, other toiletries, etc.
On a broader scale, Shields said what Sioux Falls really needs is more affordable housing.
"We do whatever we can to find alternate shelter that is more suitable than a homeless shelter, and that then frees up more beds," Shields said. "But then again, here we are – it's still not enough."