SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – The Sioux Falls Homeless Task Force has taken another step in its plan to address homelessness in the city. At Wednesday night’s city council meeting, funding was approved for South Dakota Urban Indian Health to expand outreach efforts.

A partnership with South Dakota Urban Indian Health is important when it comes to addressing homelessness in Sioux Falls.

“We have a disproportionate number of Native Americans in our community that are experiencing homelessness,” Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken said.

According to the latest data from South Dakota Housing, as of January 25th of this year, 195 of the 490 unhoused individuals in Sioux Falls identified as American Indians.

“We have probably between 20 and 30 people drop in our center each week looking for help and most of them are unhoused or they’re housing unstable,” CEO of SDUIH, Michaela Seiber said. “We hand out bus passes, we make food for them, we give water, we smudge, we give sage, sweetgrass. Sometimes they just need a place to cool off, charge their phone, access wifi.”

In May of this year, South Dakota Urban Indian Health started its Wo’Okiye Project to create outreach efforts in downtown Sioux Falls for people who are homeless. Now, a contract with the City will help expand the project.

“This will help us specifically hire people to be on this team, dedicated to this work. Filling shifts so that we have people on the pulse of this filling shifts every day,” Seiber said.

The goal of South Dakota Urban Indian Health and the Homeless Task Force is to offer holistic approaches to helping those who need it the most.

“We don’t judge. We approach people with a warm heart and a handshake. I think that really sets us apart. We love these people, we truly do,” Seiber said.

One goal South Dakota Urban Indian Health has is to set up a phone number that law enforcement and downtown businesses can use to request help from the organization. The hope is to have that ready to go by the end of the month.