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Homeless Count Shows 17 Percent Increase

SD Housing for the Homeless Consortium

A statewide survey shows more than 1,000 people in South Dakota are homeless. But advocates for affordable and appropriate housing say the number of people in need is much higher. Stakeholders in Sioux Falls gathered Wednesday to discuss a plan to curb homelessness and improve quality of life.

The official 2015 Statewide Point in Time Homeless Count reveals 1,036 people are homeless in South Dakota. That one-day snapshot shows the number of people without a home is up 17 percent from last year.

Stacey Tieszen is the coordinator for Minnehaha County’s Homeless Advisory Board. She speaks to a group of local advocates Wednesday at a discussion in Sioux Falls.

“Our surveys are not like bigger city surveys where they just king of do a little ‘click, yep, yep, yep.’ We ask 14 questions starting with, ‘Well, how’d you get to be homeless?’” Tieszen says. “So when you talk about domestic violence, you talk about substance abuse, you talk about divorce – those are not happy reasons why people become homeless, so having to share that with a complete stranger is very personal.”

Tieszen says the data from the count don’t accurately reflect South Dakota’s homeless population. She uses Sioux Falls as an example. Tieszen says the January survey shows around 400 people are homeless in the city, but she says the new Bishop Dudley House shelter saw more than one thousand different people seek help in the first half of the year.

Roger Jacobs is the field office director for the department of Housing and Urban Development. He says people don’t realize what homelessness looks like.

“Those are the visible homeless individuals that are panhandling or sitting on the side of the road, but there’s a lot of homeless individuals or doubled-up individuals who may not be classified as homeless under certain programs, but they have to double up and they have to live in multiple families in the homes, and those are hidden,” Jacobs says.

Jacobs says people rarely consider where people who work minimum wage jobs live. He says affordable housing is scarce.

Government leaders and advocates are working on a 10-year plan to address homelessness. They say population density, poverty, economic development, transportation, health care and other issues contribute to people living without homes.

Discussions about the plan are in the works for several more communities across South Dakota. For information, visit the South Dakota Housing Development Authority  website or view a draft of the 10-year plan online from the South Dakota Housing for the Homeless Consortium