SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Sioux Falls Police Chief Jon Thum focused Monday afternoon on the cause rather than the effect at a meeting of a Sioux Falls homelessness task force.
“From a law enforcement perspective, just to kind of sum it up before we have some questions, is yes, are we a tool that addresses some of these issues, yes, but we’re not necessarily going to get to some of the root or core issues that are out there,” Thum said.
It’s a theme that task force members Anny Libengood and Terry Liggins appreciate.
“We can’t police ourselves out of homelessness,” Libengood said.
“I really like the ideas I hear so far already, especially just the honesty and the ownership from our chief to say, there’s only so much that that type of response is going to do,” Liggins said.
Task force chair Rich Merkouris said this was the task force’s first working session; overall, their aim is to recommend policy that the city can employ. Three members of the Sioux Falls City Council are on the homelessness task force. The group heard Monday from Michaela Seiber, CEO of South Dakota Urban Indian Health, about an effort her organization is hoping to emulate.
“You see somebody aggressively panhandling, instead of calling the police, call us,” Seiber said. “We’ll go check in with them to see what they need. Are you looking for somewhere to stay, we can drive you somewhere to stay. You don’t have to call the police for all those situations, and we’re hoping that we can free up their time to do other stuff.”
Libengood struck a positive tone about how people view the issue of homelessness.
“Our community is really a caring, empathetic community, and some of the business owners that, and other people that gave us public input in the first couple of meetings, they really had some great input and insight, and they want to help,” Libengood said. “They genuinely want to help people. They don’t want to just move people along.”
The task force will meet again on September 12.