Simplified: A task force convened earlier this year to study homelessness shared a first look at some of the solutions they'll propose to the City Council in the coming months. Take a look at the first draft of task force recommendations.
Why it matters
- There are hundreds of unhoused people in Sioux Falls. The most recent count in January showed more than 400 people were without homes.
- The draft recommendations take a largely "housing first" approach, meaning the primary focus is on finding housing, regardless of a person's mental health or addiction needs. Find a home first, then connect with other needed services.
- There's also an emphasis on the need for help on the development side. Sioux Falls Thrive is already working toward creating a housing trust fund – essentially money that can fill the gap between what it costs to build housing and what low-income people can afford to pay in rent.
"It is just, at this point, virtually impossible to build a tax-credit apartment building ... we're ready to take action," said Michelle Erpenbach, president of Sioux Falls Thrive and task force member.
Tell me more about the recommendations
The most important thing to note is that these are a first draft.
The draft recommendations can and likely will change before going before the council for a vote, but here's an early look at what the task force is proposing.
Be more proactive in engaging people on the streets
- What it looks like: Asking the council to enter into a contract with Urban Indian Health for a two-year pilot project to have intentional outreach for unhoused people, who in Sioux Falls are disproportionately Native American, Councilor (and task force chair) Rich Merkouris said.
Educate the community on the challenges of homelessness.
- What it looks like: Creating a campaign to help the public better understand healthy approaches to helping and "specific action the public should take regarding pan handling."
Review the existing loitering ordinance with the help of law enforcement and the city attorney's office.
Make sure it's easy for people to get IDs – though the exact action that needs to be taken here is yet unclear.
Work with county to create a "housing first" policy including wraparound services
- What it looks like: Establishing a joint committee with the County Commission to establish a "housing first" strategy over the next three years. It's unclear exactly what this might look like in practice, but "housing first" implies a focus on getting a roof over people's heads first, then focusing on getting whatever mental health, addiction, career, etc. resources they might need.
Do more with the Helpline Center.
- What it looks like: Starting a fund to incentivize nonprofits to participate in the Helpline Network of Care and giving more money to the Helpline Center.
What else is happening to prevent homelessness in Sioux Falls?
There are a handful of efforts already underway that the task force has learned about but doesn't really need to involve itself in these efforts because other groups already have them in the works.
- Work on how best to provide mental health services to unhoused people – something The Link is working on right now.
- Giving more shelter options, especially for families. Conversations in the community are already underway about what to do with the soon-to-be-vacant Children's Inn facility (they're moving), Merkouris said.
- Creating a Housing Trust Fund to make it possible to build more housing units. Sioux Falls Thrive is already working on this.
"It really is about bringing local control into that funding mechanism so that we can set up a system that works for us as a community," Erpenbach said. "And we can make a difference for some of those folks that are truly, truly in those lower income brackets."
Task force members will go over the draft recommendations, give feedback and reconvene Oct. 24 to further finalize what will ultimately go to the City Council.