- Associated Press - Monday, May 30, 2016

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - Six groups are teaming up to try to improve how they serve the homeless in South Dakota’s largest city.

The Sioux Falls organizations are launching a pilot program to track each person who depends on their help. The Sioux Empire Network of Care will bring together local providers of food, clothes, shelter and financial assistance, the Argus Leader reported (https://argusne.ws/1Ug7wlQ ).

The new database is designed to improve care by cutting down on the duplication of services and preventing people from falling through the cracks.

“There’s a lot of opportunities (for help), but you’ve got to know how to use” the system, said Jeff Irving, who needed help getting back on his feet after a felony conviction made it hard for him to find a job. “It’s a good plan.”

Advocates for the homeless say it also might help reveal the full scope of Sioux Falls’ homelessness problem, since the organizations currently don’t know if they’re serving the same people.

“All I know right now is how many people who have utilized a service, but I don’t have any idea if that person is duplicated,” said Stacey Tieszen, coordinator for Minnehaha County’s Homeless Advisory Board.

Getting a handle on the number of homeless is difficult. In January, a single-day count done by the state identified 434 homeless in the Minnehaha County. Sioux Falls public schools have identified more than 800 children who were homeless at some point this school year. County human services in 2015 served 1,425 households that identified as homeless.

There also is no easy way to determine what services people rely on each day to survive, said Janet Kittams-Lalley, president of the Helpline Center.

“We don’t really know the entire journey of a person in need as they go through the system,” she said.

The Sioux Empire Network of Care is funded by a $200,000 grant from the Bush Foundation. The effort is scheduled to begin next month.

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Information from: Argus Leader, https://www.argusleader.com

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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