They are the troubled and forgotten. Many people with mental illness and substance abuse issues wind up on the streets. For some it’s a way of life; for others, it’s just one night.
But all it takes is one night in a wicked South Dakota winter for those streets to turn deadly. This past, winter there were three exposure deaths in the city.
The last homeless count in Sioux Falls was up to 374 people.
While many stay in shelters, others wind up in city parks and along the River Greenway.
“Those are places homeless people will often make camps. Our strategy in the fall is for our parks officers to go out and locate those camps; often with the help of citizens, if some of that is on private property. And we will go in and try to reach those people before winter hits,” Sioux Falls Police Lieutenant Dave McIntire said.
Police on patrol do their best to get them into shelters. But still every year there are people who never make it to a shelter and die of exposure.
“These are situations where alcohol or drugs can be involved. And that can harm a person’s judgment and they end up in a place where they can’t control their body temperature because of the elements,“ McIntire said.
This past winter, two of those exposure deaths occurred near the viaduct that runs over East 10th Street.
On the night of January 15, temperatures plummeted to the single digits with dangerous wind chills. The next morning 25-year-old Richard Myers was found on the north sidewalk of the bridge.
On February 12, the overnight low was zero with wind chills in the minus 20s. Another man was found on the north side of the viaduct against the wall.
“It is a place that receives regular patrols, absolutely; not only foot patrols at the patrol level, but our parks officers are always frequently on the bike paths,” McIntire said.
A third exposure victim during the winter of 2019 was found at Frank Olson Park on March 9. A light wintry mix was adding to the nine inches of snow on the ground.
While Sioux Falls police will not release the names of the exposure victims citing Marsy’s Law, we know Myers’ name because his family contacted KELOLAND Investigates.
They hoped to get him into a treatment center before being released from the hospital.
“I said, ‘It’s not safe for him to leave and I have no way to get him.’ And he says, ‘We can give him a bus ticket back to Brookings tomorrow morning,'” Michelle Buchholz said.
But Myers never got on that bus. We investigate the circumstances leading up to his death under the viaduct Monday on KELOLAND News at 10 in Eye on KELOLAND.