Councilor proposes task force to reduce homelessness

One of the newest members of Sioux Falls City Council hopes to form a task force to address the problem of homelessness in the city.

Councilor Rich Merkouris spoke regularly on the issue while campaigning for the council’s At-Large B spot. “The national safety net is broken,” he said in a campaign video earlier this year, “and it’s trapping people in poverty.”

Merkouris will present a resolution that would establish the task force at the June 7 board meeting.

In an interview, Merkouris said that it is no coincidence that the working group will work at the same time as the Plan Centre-Ville 2035, since the two subjects are interconnected.

After: Sioux Falls prepares to sketch downtown’s next decade

If approved, the task force will meet over a six-month period, gathering input from the public and affected entities with the goal of providing strategies for the city to reduce homelessness over the next ten years. .

Merkouris said he heard voters’ concerns about it, adding that there was “a wider group of people on the corners asking for money” and they were in more places than usual. .

The resolution refers to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Sioux Falls point-in-time count of homeless people in January 2022 of 407 — 44 of whom were children under 18.

The Bishop Dudley House is seen Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2021, in Sioux Falls.

After: Police calls to Bishop Dudley Hospitality House have tripled in the past five years

Merkouris laid out some of his ideas for solving the problem in a page on his campaign website earlier this year.

“You saw the signs of begging. You heard the news reports about the crime. You were harassed for money while walking downtown. You probably even drove and shook your head,” the page begins.

Merkouris writes that he wants to come up with a plan that “supports downtown development while caring for our city’s most vulnerable,” saying there is “constantly an overwhelming amount of loitering and other issues in the city.” ‘east of downtown, often along Eighth Street’.

Its proposals include forming “street teams” to approach people and connect them to services, integrating employment opportunities into day shelters, and “discerning as a neighborhood the most appropriate food distribution plans to reduce rubbish, rubbish and vagrancy”.

After: Homelessness is increasing in Sioux Falls. Housing shortages, COVID and population growth are making the situation worse.

The resolution would allow four members of the task force to be nominated by Mayor Paul TenHaken, with the others being named Council Chairman Curt Soehl and Vice Chairman Alex Jensen – and Merkouris says he hopes to be one of the members.

The resolution would require that final recommendations be presented to TenHaken and the rest of the board by December 13, 2022.

Comments are closed.