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Business owners request foot patrols, stricter ordinances at Sioux Falls Homeless Task Force meeting

The Sioux Falls Homeless Task Force heard public input during its second meeting on Monday, August 8, 2022.
Jackie Hendry
The Sioux Falls Homeless Task Force heard public input during its second meeting on Monday, Aug. 8, 2022.

Business owners and other residents offered their perspectives on the rising rates of homelessness during the second meeting of the Sioux Falls Homeless Task Force. The group is working to provide policy suggestions to the mayor and city council by the end of this year.

Most of the 13 speakers were frustrated — either with limited intervention from the city against loiterers, or with nonprofit managers they felt weren't doing enough to prevent clashes between homeless people and customers.

Irene Chang owns a strip mall on the corner of 10th Street and Cliff Avenue. She told the task force her tenants were concerned when they learned the Bishop Dudley Hospitality House would be moving nearby in 2014.

"And I told them, 'Don't worry about them, because I serve lunch at the local facility' that became Bishop Dudley," she told the task force. "I said to them, 'It's all good.' Well, I became a liar."

Multiple business owners called out the Bishop Dudley Hospitality House, complaining about its residents lying on sidewalks, panhandling, and leaving behind trash and human excrement. Chang requested stricter city ordinances on the Bishop Dudley Hospitality House.

Bob Jarding is a partner with Electric Supply Company and owns a building near the shelter. He says he too was a disgruntled property owner until he joined the board of directors at Bishop Dudley Hospitality House.

"If we closed the doors tonight we'd have 150 people on the street," he said. He explained "bad apples" are more visible than the many other residents who need the shelter's services.

"I guess what I'd like to see is a foot patrol, if we could," Jarding said, looking to Sioux Falls Police Chief Jon Thum, who listened from the back of the room. "Treat it like the streets of New York if we have to. Just patrol the living daylights out of that area to keep things moving." Ultimately, Jarding said the city needs more shelters like the Bishop Dudley Hospitality House, and to potentially spread them throughout the city rather than concentrating in the eastern downtown region.

Some other speakers suggested a crackdown on panhandling, assigning personnel to help homeless people navigate welfare systems, and construction of tiny homes.

Rich Merkouris, Sioux Falls City Council member and chair of the Homeless Task Force, announced the group's next meeting is on Aug. 22 in the Downtown Siouxland Library. The task force will hear from other nonprofits that weren't present at its first meeting.

Jackie is based out of SDPB's Sioux Falls Studio.
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