Sioux Falls City Councilor Stehly suggests changes for Whittier Neighborhood

August 26, 2019

Dear Business owners, Board members of the Bishop Dudley house, St. Francis house, Banquet staff and Whittier Neighborhood Citizens, 

As we move forward in our discussion about safety, economic vitality and social services in the Handyman/Whittier neighborhood area, I wanted to let you know what my plans are as your At-Large City Council member. 

First, let me assure you that I have been a strong advocate for helping those in need in our community. Through the years, I have personally contributed to the St. Francis House, The Union Gospel Mission, The Salvation Army , The Family Connection, The Vincent De Paul store and The Good Shepherd Center . I have supported City funding for the Bishop Dudley house even when the previous mayor had recommended that it be cut from the budget. I spent a night last fall sleeping in the Bishop Dudley Parking lot as an advocate for that facility. I have served at the Banquet, and I have housed a homeless person in my own home.

The challenge we are currently facing in our community is to find solutions to ensure that homeowners, business owners and people in need are all provided for in our City.

These past weeks, I have been blessed to have conversations with many of the stakeholders involved in this issue. From those conversations, I have developed a list of tangible goals/priorities that I would like to work on with all of you. My goal would be to implement these in the next year, and then do a reassessment. I welcome your feedback.

1. Designate stronger police presence in the Neighborhood. We currently staff our schools with approximately 15 school resource officers. I recommend that we designate a resource officer for this area of town.

2. Add additional foot patrol officers to rotate in the residential areas and businesses. 24/7

3. Add a small precinct in the new development where the Chinese restaurant was. If this area does not get developed then put the precinct in another building in the immediate area.

4. Place restroom or porta potie facilities on public land and open spaces in the area.

5. Develop more stringent vagrancy /loitering ordinances.

6. Develop new parameters of Liquor establishments near homeless shelter.

7. Aid in forming a neighborhood /business association in the Handyman/Whittier area.

8. Develop a tax incentive program to assist homeowners and small businesses in fixing up their property.

As I mentioned above, I welcome your feedback. I look forward to working with the Mayor’s office and my Council Colleagues as we find solutions for our citizens. Having a yearly checkup on the progress /needs and frequent communication by all involved, will be imperative to protecting the economic opportunities and safety concerns for our community.

Best Regards, Theresa Stehly

City Councilor-At Large

Phone: 605-367-8806, Cell: 605-929-8783



#1 rufusx on 08.27.19 at 3:31 pm

Bathroom facilities should include public showers – Perhaps combining those facilities with the local precinct would ease concerns over public safety of same??

#2 Jeff Barth on 08.27.19 at 3:46 pm

I commend Theresa for her well considered ideas.

The idea of limiting alcohol in the area makes sense to me (as do higher alcohol taxes).

Perhaps we could offer people “day labor” jobs for the city and include lunch as part of their pay.

Public restrooms are needed. What is the alternative for a homeless person? Hold it?

Looking forward to your ideas.
Thanks Theresa.

#3 D@ily Spin on 08.27.19 at 3:51 pm

Agreed, mostly. It’s time to focus on communities that got left out of city prosperity.
I’d say 2 person police patrols 24/7. At least double police presence.
I disagree with porta-potties. They become a place for shooting up and are subject to vandalism. Perhaps brick restrooms in a few strategic city parks. No doors. Walk around entrance. They’d be well lit and patrolled hourly by police.
Rather than strict vagrant ordinance, have police patrols inform of shelters and to move on. The jail is full. These people don’t pay fines. Find another way.
There’s lots of vagrants and homeless. With a helping hand, they may find their way. Drug and alcohol addicts are another issue. If they want help, it’s available. If not, give them a one way bus ticket out of town. They’ll pick going home to their family or somewhere their lifestyle is better accepted.
Tax incentive, maybe. I’d say focus on one block at a time. In this city, people do a little something to their home and the code enforcer shows up. Stop harassing them.
When there’s less crime, these people will bring back their own neighborhoods. They’re smarter than you think. Just watch, they’re smart enough to secede from the city.

#4 l3wis on 08.27.19 at 6:40 pm

I was completely and utterly opposed to putting the Dudley House in that neighborhood. I had suggested at the time to put a shelter close to the jail so they could easily access the library, Falls Community Health and SAM. The problems do not surprise me. So what are the solutions? Move it. As for the liquor limitations (mostly on malt beverages) I told councilor Stehly if she were to ban the single serve malt beverages with high alcohol content, she would have to do it citywide to be fair. The problem is overflowing out of the Whittier neighborhood to, which we need to get a handle on. I live only a couple blocks north of Avera and there have been homeless sleeping in my neighborhood all summer in back yards of rentals.

#5 Rich Merkouris on 08.27.19 at 7:27 pm

I appreciate the councilor pushing this conversation forward. It’s my hope that there can be healthy conversation between the city, county and critical nonprofits that are engaged in service for this population. These proposals from the councilor are a good starting point for conversation. I hope that the current division on the council does not have a negative impact on this conversation.
We need to have a community conversation about a day shelter and their effectiveness. I believe a task group should be put together. I know people don’t like “task groups” or “committees” but they are an important element. We have one for the Event Center campus and this is just as important conversation with just as much economic impact (if not more) on our community. The task group should have clear goals and end date of which to bring recommendations directly to the council.
I believe we have the necessary resources to improve the neighborhood for everyone while at the same time not just shifting the problem somewhere else. It is true that we will always have a segment of our population struggling with a variety of issues. Yet, we should have some more intentional and collaborative systems working on this issue.

#6 D@ily Spin on 08.27.19 at 7:37 pm

I like Barth’s idea of day job and lunch. Those that show up are trying to lift themselves up. Likely, most who respond are those worth helping.

#7 Matthew Paulson on 08.27.19 at 9:45 pm

I agree with Rich that a bigger discussion/investigation is a worthy pursuit. The ideas discussed in the comments and in this letter are a good starting point.

I think it was mentioned somewhere else that the city is already beginning to increase patrols, which is a positive step.

I don’t think putting bathrooms and porta-potties out on 8th street really is a solution (because there are bathrooms right inside the door of the Bishop Dudley house that apparently people are choosing not to use).

I think it’s worth investigating whether or not a day center would be helpful (although I think Bishop Dudley has a day center for at least women and children).

I hope we can have a healthy discussion about how to solve this problem and not just move the problem somewhere else. This isn’t a political issue and doesn’t need to turn into yet another 5-3 vote on the city council or a become another game of “if you had listened to me, this would have never been a problem.”

This problem can be solved by the organizations, community members and businesses in the neighborhood (my office is ~3 blocks west of Bishop Dudley on 8th), with help from the city and from the police department.

#8 Theresa stehly on 08.28.19 at 12:10 am

The bathroom issue has to do with restrooms in parks, like Nelson Park and Heritage park. Putting porta potties on 8th street was never mentioned. I hope that everyone has a chance to personally visit with neighbors living north of 8th street and those businesses in the area. Listen.

#9 Betty Barnes on 08.28.19 at 9:30 am

This problem goes beyond cliff avenue to the east. Same problems as above. Loitering, fighting if more than one, and begging . Empty liquor bottles, beer containers, and human refuse. Ruined a shoe the other night stepping into a mess. When the facilities won’t shelter these people and feel not safe for the facility , why would it be safe for the residents of the area.

#10 D@ily Spin on 08.28.19 at 10:01 am

Stehly is active. Her ideas address problems. She opens up issues such that they get amended attention. We’re getting our moneys worth with her as councilor at large. It would be nice to see other councilors show interest. They seem to serve only when their special interest becomes affected. With Triple Check Charter Revision, Stehly would be a good Mayor. The petitioner 6,000 could get her elected without the usual $500K campaign.

#11 Conservative Here on 08.28.19 at 12:01 pm

You have to deal with the root cause of the problem or all you will end up with by providing more free stuff is more of the same. This is simple, you subsidize what you want more of and tax what you want less of. This sounds harsh but, we should not make it comfortable to be homeless and in Sioux Falls there really is not an excuse you can’t scrape together $500 bucks to rent a dumpy appt. There are plenty of jobs if you want them and yes the pay may be minimum wage but, you can get a job. I have minimal sympathy for being homeless due to drug or alcohol problems. The resources such as food stamps, rental assistance, utility assistance, etc should allow you to get back on your feet but, you have got to want to do it. I have served at the banquet many a times and I am saddened to watch so many people come through and you can see how their struggles are weighing on them and it can be emotionally draining to watch that and be helpless to make a REAL impact on them. You can’t help someone who will not help themselves. Lets also be honest, we have people who are perfectly ok with being homeless and sponging off society and those folks will never get their act together. I want to know HOW do we fix homelessness in a persons life permanently not just band aide it by giving them a place to go to the bathroom.

#12 l3wis on 08.28.19 at 1:42 pm

CH, I get some of your points, but I think we will need a multi-tiered approach. The Triage center will help a lot, I think prevention and getting people help before their addiction spirals out of control will stop a lot of this. That place is way past due. I also think Dudley needs to move the shelter DT by the Triage center. I also agree that there shouldn’t be so many handouts without an expectation. Many communities across the country have day worker programs in exchange for shelter and food, I also think it teaches responsibility. For those that don’t want to work for the handouts, they will leave. At the Teddy Bear den, the mothers have to earn points to get baby supplies. I think you can model off of that program somehow.

#13 Theresa Stehly on 08.28.19 at 1:42 pm


Of course we want to work to end homelessness. But in the meantime, we also have to face reality and find ways to address the physical/safety issues facing homeowners and businesses owners in whittier area. I encourage all of us to take the time to actually visit with these citizens and listen to their concerns and ideas for possible solutions for making this a win/win for the area.

The list of goals that I compiled in my letter includes input that I heard from all the stakeholders in the area during many hours of conversation. These are all tangible suggestions that can be implemented within the next year.

I am grateful that we are having a respectful discussion and putting ideas together. I am hopeful that we will see improved “quality of life” for all involved SOON! This is what community caring is all about.

The City Council has the authority to implement policies/ordinances which can be helpful to the area residents. All neighborhoods in Sioux Falls should be safe for children and adults to move about and enjoy without fear.

#14 St. Francis House on 08.28.19 at 1:58 pm

Betty Barnes,

When the St. Francis House was seeking approval from the City to expand, there were MANY neighbors who testified about these issues that were negatively impacting their properties.

So, yes, this does not stop at Cliff Avenue!!

#15 LJL on 08.28.19 at 9:24 pm

Creating additional hand outs and facilities onto the existing hand outs and facilities will only create additional participants.

Need proof?

I have long said the Dudley house needs to shift it’s focus on children and their parent. The Banquet needs to provide/require counseling for participates. There’s a hell of a lot of overpriced lofts on the west side of the downtown Sioux that will fight over moving either of these facilities.

#16 scott on 08.28.19 at 10:03 pm

move the dudley house, banquet, and st francis house south of 57th street, and the homeless problems would get fixed really quick. i think the powers that be in this town are content to keep the problem population right were they are, and the immigrants in the 6th street and cleveland avenue areas.

#17 ljl on 08.29.19 at 9:46 am

Your correct Scott. South side wouldn’t put up with this shit in our neighborhoods. Just what is your point? What more do you want us to do? Are we to stand on your street corners and tell you how to behave in society?

Do you have a input that could help this problem our is your jealous ideologies your only motive?

#18 ljl on 08.29.19 at 9:56 am

I will be willing to make this compromise: the city funds a bath public facility in this area AND we also build a servaillance system for 20 blocks of the cities core. I’ve long advocated for taking that camera trailer out of the east Walmart lot and moving it to problem areas.

#19 Conservative Here on 08.29.19 at 11:06 am

I have to ask, what is it bitterness on this blog to anyone who lives South of 57th street. I live South of 57th street and I am not getting this thought process. Is it because the homes south of 57th are all less than 20 years old, what is the deal. Is it the perception that everyone South of 57th is flush with cash? If that is the case you don’t know SF real well.

Echoing LJL’s comments, yeah if this crap were in my neighborhood I know we as neighbors would not put up with it. We would ensure something is done as I don’t want homeless people drugged out in my neighborhood and using my front yard as a toilet. The answer would not be to put a potty potty at the end of the block. So my question is why are the people in the Whitter neighborhoods putting up with it? I also stand by my previous comments, stop making it easy for them to be homeless it only attracts more. I go to Best Care Vet frequently to get my 2 pooches checked on and 1 is old and been sick so I have been over on east 10th frequently this summer. I have seen NUMEROUS folks every time loitering around Little Caesar’s drunk as hell and taking up space. Get a flipping job and contribute to society. Too many people in this country only want to be part of the problem and not part of the solution. This is a thought process I frankly do not understand and never will, get off your @ss and do something. I truly ONLY want to help people who are trying and need it but, its not a life long crutch, you can’t support people forever at some time personal responsibility comes into play. Sack up and get in the game!