Clarification: An earlier version of this article misstated the scope of Johnson's new role.
Simplified: Minnehaha County has a new, full-time position focused on connecting various resources within the community. Here's what to know about their push for a "no wrong door" approach to support systems for people experiencing homelessness.
Why it matters
- Sioux Falls is rich in services to help unhoused folks, but it's lacking in systems to connect those services together, said Brett Johnson, the county's new community services engagement manager.
- Johnson has worked with the county's Department of Human Services for more than a decade, and his new role will be focused on supporting and connecting folks with resources. He'll also be working to strengthen the relationship between the county and the City of Sioux Falls in helping find things like housing and other essential supports.
- The hope is that the county can help connect and streamline all available resources so that when someone asks for help, they can find it, even if they're starting at a place that may not technically be best suited to help them.
"Ultimately everybody needs to work just as hard to be the right door, even if they're not the right door," said Kari Benz, director of Minnehaha County Department of Human Services. "So many people, they make that effort ... to ask for assistance, and then when they're met with 'oh you're not ours,' it's hard to go back a second time or a third time to make that same ask."
Tell me more
Shelters in the city, for example, are already working together more today than they were a few years ago, Benz said.
- The county holds regular meetings with the Bishop Dudley Hospitality House and the Union Gospel Mission to figure out how to take some of the pressure off the often-overflowing Bishop Dudley.
The challenge is connecting all of the other dots between various services, case managers, addiction care, health care and other services a person might be receiving to make sure folks are getting connected with the programs they need.
In his new role, Johnson said he's advocating for a "no wrong door" approach in which organizations helping people know and understand the programs available to help point people in the right direction.
- That means starting with things as basic as an agreed-upon definition of "homelessness," or "at-risk," he said.
It also means making sure no one looking for help is met with a, "that's not my job."
"We (want to) figure out the best way to, at the end of the day, go, 'You know what, our goal is the same: to take care of the members of our community that are the most vulnerable and tend to be marginalized and pushed off to the side," Johnson said.