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Sioux Falls City Council working to address panhandling

Published: Sep. 23, 2020 at 10:03 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - The issue of panhandling is seasonal in Sioux Falls. But, this year, the number of folks on street corners and roadways asking for money has increased, so much so that its drawn specific attention from city leadership.

The Sioux Falls City Council, in conjunction with the Sioux Falls Police Department, is working to get on top of the issue. Councilors Christine Erickson and Greg Neitzert are spearheading the effort.

However, Nietzert says the issue isn’t as simple as just citing, or arresting the folks who are causing the problems.

“People think that we can just simply tell people that they can’t do it," Neitzert said. "It’s not unconstitutional to stand in a public place and hold a sign, regardless of what it says. It is an illegal act to exchange money in traffic, but the police have to see that, so it’s very hard to enforce.”

Shawn Horn is a homeless man living in Sioux Falls, who occasionally panhandles. He says panhandling is a viable way for people like him to bring in at least some income.

“After coronavirus came out, I’ve been unemployed for awhile, so, I guess, I’m just doing what I gotta do to make a living, or make some money," Horn said.

While it’s not what he wants to be doing, Horn says it does help him live day-to-day.

“Out here on the streets, it’s just how you do it," Horn said. "Some days you can get it, and some days you don’t.”

Neitzert tells me, he understands, the extra cash is truly needed by some folks, but many don’t use the generosity in the right way.

“You’re not helping people, because you don’t know where that money is going," Neitzert said. "It may be going to feed addictions and some of those negative behaviors.”

The best way to address the issue, Neitzert says, is by educating the public to stop giving handouts, and instead give that money to one of the area’s non-profits.

“People have good hearts here, people want to help, and that’s great, but there’s lots of wonderful organizations, we have the Banquet, we have the Bishop Dudley (Hospitality House)," Neitzert said. "We have a very, very good support system here in the city to help the homeless population, and those who have lost their jobs, and that’s what you should be directing your funds to.”

The Sioux Falls Police Department is expected to be addressing this issue, in detail, Thursday morning at police briefing.

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