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Need to address homelessness in Sioux Falls on the rise

Published: Apr. 6, 2022 at 3:12 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Homelessness is becoming more of an issue in Sioux Falls.

It’s a concern among residents, who have the chance to vote for mayor in the city election next week.

The mayoral candidates discussed the issue during Dakota News Now’s debate Monday night.

Incumbent Mayor Paul TenHaken says it’s a team effort, with a large responsibility falling on local non-profits.

“We rely on them, homelessness is not the city’s issue, it’s a ‘we’ issue, and we rely on our law enforcement, we rely on (the Union Gospel Mission), we rely on (the Bishop Dudley Hospitality House), we rely on on our church community to address this challenge.”

His opponents, Taneeza Islam and David Zokaites, think the problem can be met more directly by the local government.

“We need long-term services for our houseless community, and we need a systemic approach to who houseless people are and why they are houseless, by increasing affordable housing,” Islam said.

Zokaites says the city must dissect the needs of those who are homeless, “When we drive around Sioux Falls and look on the street corners there are people begging for money all the time, and whatever these people need, we’re apparently not providing it to them.”

St. Francis House Executive Director Julie Becker watched the candidates speak about the situation Monday night.

“When I listened to all three candidates, they all had really great things that are all tangible items that we can work together on,” Becker said.

Becker says the community needs to focus on the root causes of homelessness: addiction, mental health, and affordable housing.

“I think the first thing that needs to happen is a task force needs to be created, with maybe a city councilperson, some individuals from the city, as well as the leaders from several non-profits and the individuals that have been served in our programs,” Becker said.

Becker says the St. Francis House is more than 90% full, and other local shelters are over capacity.

“The non-profits, we feel that we are doing our part, we are really trying to make that round cylinder fit in the square hole to meet the needs of the individuals that are coming here, but it is definitely growing,” Becker said.

However, Becker believes the issue isn’t solely the city’s to solve.

“I do not believe that this has to be a city’s responsibility, this is a joint effort, it’s a partnership,” Becker said.

Becker says if the community doesn’t look deeper into the issue now, the community will continue to struggle in facing it for years to come.

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