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July 28, 2014 05:02 PM

Outreach To Van Eps Park

Sioux Falls, SD

A very visible park has brought a big social problem in Sioux Falls into focus. 

Drinking, drugs and all the problems that go along with them are showing up in two city parks — Van Eps right off of Minnesota Avenue and Tower Park on North Main Avenue. 

The issues Sioux Falls is seeing in Van Eps and Tower Parks stem mostly from alcohol and drug use. People are visibly drinking, and there's also evidence of drugs in the park.  Some, not all, of these people are homeless. Nearly all share a common bond of chemical use. 

As a health care for homeless site, Falls Community Health is required to provide substance abuse services.

"We go to Union Gospel Mission; we go to Good Shepard Center. So we have some established locations we will go to on a regular basis and provide outreach services," Clinical Services Manager Vanessa Sweeney said.

Lately, that outreach has been to Van Eps Park. 

"So we want to go out and make that connection," Sweeney said. "And build that rapport with them, so even if they are not self-identifying whatever they may need at the time-it can be a check for diabetes--it doesn't have to be a substance abuse service--that they know that they know they can come here and we will go and meet them," 

The clinic saw 1,100 homeless patients last year and made 2100 case management visits.  Sweeny knows people can't be forced to get help if they don't see it as a problem. 

"We want to let people know these services exist and that they can access these services in any point in time," Sweeny said.

That's just one of the efforts underway to tackle a bigger social problem than banning alcohol in the parks.  On tonight's Eye on KELOLAND, we'll have an in-depth look at the issues in the park from those trying to help the homeless to neighbors and even people drinking in the park.

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