200 additional people counted as homeless in county
Minnehaha numbers include 218 children; Salvation Army opens warming shelter
December 27. 2013 9:55AM
As the temperature dipped to 9 degrees, the Salvation Army’s warming site opened its doors to the homeless in Sioux Falls on a recent Sunday night.
About 40 people – fewer than expected – turned out, said Major Thomas E. Riggs of the Salvation Army. But he expects that to pick up to 70 or 80 people a night as the word gets out that the gym at 800 N. Cliff Ave. is open for the season.
“I’m surprised by the number of young people who come here,” Riggs said.
There are people in their 20s that came to spend the night, he said. Some others that use the temporary shelter have jobs but don’t make enough to rent a place of their own, he said.
“Homelessness can happen to almost anyone, is often shameful for those who are experiencing it, and is frankly, extremely traumatizing for the youngest of our homeless,” said Stacey Tieszen, coordinator for the Homeless Advisory Board in Minnehaha County
The annual survey of the homeless population in Minnehaha County counted 618 homeless people, including 218 children. That’s almost 200 more people than a year ago, Tieszen said.
The one-day count was conducted statewide Sept. 24. Numbers were released Dec. 16.
The Salvation Army warming site opened two weeks later than last year because of other activities that required space in the gym. Through about mid-April, the warming site will be open from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. each day.
Homelessness is an increasing problem, and advocates say it won’t go away without a concerted effort to provide more affordable housing in Sioux Falls.
A lack of affordable housing as well as a need for transportation are two main culprits exacerbating homelessness in Sioux Falls, according to the Homeless Advisory Board.
Fair market rent increased by $69 a month for a two-bedroom apartment over last year and now is at $760 a month. A person would need wages of $14.61 an hour to afford this unit price.
Across South Dakota, a total 1,155 people were identified as homeless during the annual count, about the same number as last year. Not all counties participated in the annual survey.
Tieszen said a strong effort was made to get a good count in the Sioux Falls area. She and volunteers were out from 3 a.m. to 10 p.m. on the day of the count, visiting shelters and soup kitchens.
“If it’s a place that homeless people go to, we’re getting it covered,” Tieszen said.
The survey included personal questions, asking each person how they became homeless, how long they’ve been without a home and how much money they are making. As an incentive, survey participants were offered a $5 fast food gift card.
Tieszen is concerned with the number of children identified in this year’s count. The 218 without a home compares with 133 a year ago in a Minnehaha County. This year, 29 children were living outside or in cars or abandoned buildings, where there were none counted last year.
The survey does not count those living with family or friends out of economic necessity.
This is the last year the one-day homeless count is being done in the fall. Because of changes in the Federal Housing and Urban Development program requirements, it will move to January each year. The next count is Jan. 28.
According to the count in Minnehaha County in September there were
• 41 percent male, 24 percent female, and 35 percent children
• 44 percent of total homeless surveyed said this was their first time being homeless
• 18 percent of homeless population state that their No. 1 reason for being homeless was an inability to pay rent
• 27 percent were working full time; an additional 22 percent were working part time
• 19 percent were veterans, and of those 63 people, 15 were living outside
• 32 percent have at least a high school diploma; an additional 17 percent have their GEDs
• 47 percent state that a lack of full-time employment is their primary reason for being unable to obtain housing
Change from 2012 to 2013 on where those that are homeless are sleeping:
2012: 13 percent outdoors, 56 percent emergency shelter, 18 percent transitional housing, 9 percent jail
2013: 26 percent outdoors, 28 percent emergency shelter, 25 percent transitional housing, 1 percent jail