Meeting the needs of a higher number of homeless individuals in Sioux Falls

Recent trends as seen by the Union Gospel Mission in Sioux Falls
Published: May. 26, 2023 at 9:25 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - The homeless population is growing in Sioux Falls and the surrounding area. Non-profit organizations in Sioux Falls continue to work together to try to end the cycle of homelessness and care for the community. Lately, they’ve seen a growing need for hygiene products and meals.

Summer months are a busy time for shelters like the Union Gospel Mission. they’re currently serving around 130 to 150 people per meal, per day.

“Obviously, we have extreme weather conditions here, so we’re going to see that spike in the winter and in the summer months,” said Elly Heckel, the Union Gospel Mission of Sioux Falls’ communications & marketing director. “We’re seeing definitely a higher increase of meals served. last year, we had 155,000 meals served and we’re already expecting to exceed that this year.”

The spike in individuals utilizing services in the summer months coincides with a spike in the homeless population overall.

“Our goal is that we’re getting them a job or career opportunity within 30 days,” Heckel explained. “We’re just seeing a higher spike of men, women, and children, but then there’s also another factor of youth and over 1,500 homeless youth in our community.”

Many have even noticed a trend of individuals traveling to Sioux Falls from other states for these services. Heckel lived and worked in Omaha for thirteen years before

“We’re seeing people come from even the Denver area or larger cities that have become overpopulated or overcrowded. Shelters have become maybe not as safe as, like Sioux Falls for example where we have a lower number of individuals here and more opportunities for individuals with larger cities that are seeing that increase,” said Heckel. She also says that Sioux Falls stands out as an attractive option not just because of services for homeless individuals, but also because Sioux Falls has strengthened services for low-income individuals.

So far, keeping up with demand, while giving integrated care for each individual has been challenging, but manageable. It helps when you have partners in the community, like Gloria Dei Lutheran Church. Since 2021, Gloria Dei has been offering free haircuts every Friday throughout the summer months with their “dignity on the go” trailer. The idea was first brought up by Pastor Chris Zuraff. The idea and planning for the trailer started in 2019, but with the pandemic, 2021 was the earliest they could put it into motion. One of the church committee members for the haircut trailer, Scott Murfield, says that working with the Union Gospel Mission has been special. Their mission through their ministry is to bring “dignity and image” to the people who come to them needing a haircut.

“The first one we did, people started crying when they came out of the trailer because they hadn’t had a haircut in a long time,” Explained I mean, that really gets you when you have the kids that come out of there just grinning from ear to ear. we have a lot of adults cleaning up to get a job and they feel a lot better about themselves.”

The Union Gospel Mission and other shelters continue to look for more partners like Gloria Dei to assist in meeting the needs of the homeless and also to help with community events. One of their biggest events of the year is just around the corner. The “Rock the Block” community outreach weekend is June 10th and 11th.