SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The Sioux Falls homeless task force and other community leaders are deciding what’s next to address homelessness in the city.
Tuesday night, they gave a presentation on one of their new programs.
City leaders presented their ideas for getting the “street outreach team” started, which will first need a supplemental appropriation of $250,000 for the program’s first two years. It’s something the council will vote on in the next couple weeks.
The “street outreach team” is described as a proactive approach to address the challenges of homelessness. The team would include trained professionals who would interact with people experiencing homelessness and connecting them with resources.
“Get to understand these people for the humans they are. Really understand their challenges and the barriers that they are facing and ways that they can be helped regards to connecting them to resources,” Sioux Falls public health director Dr. Charles Chima said.
Rather than law enforcement or other emergency services getting involved with certain situations, members of the street team may step in.
“Someone might see someone lying down on the street for example, and they call PD, or they call ER, they call 911, and that’s just taking up a lot of safety resources for issues that are not really necessarily for those resources. No crime going on,” Chima said.
“They could potentially take some of the lower level law enforcement calls, but really what I’m more excited for is them to go out, develop relationships with people, proactively engage them, look for people who maybe are open to a conversation and really keep police calls from ever happening,” Sioux Falls police chief Jon Thum said.
The program is all about developing relationships and getting people back on their feet.
“I’m hopeful that, you know, by the time that summer comes around, we’d see the beginning steps of these programs out there. And again, making interactions and hopefully helping with people who are looking for resources,” Thum said.
A couple of areas the street team will focus on, but are not limited to, are the Pettigrew Heights and Dudley neighborhoods around downtown.
Councilor Rich Merkouris also brought up importance of timing with this program and the newly proposed Riverline District.
“I think this pilot project could really be a good example for us of how we potentially could develop to the east side and coexist together between businesses and restaurants and a homeless shelter right next door. That happens in big cities all across the country,” Merkouris said.
In the coming months, they plan to find a community organization to head up the program with hopes to start the two-year pilot this summer.