The Cathedral and Pettigrew Heights neighborhood associations have already made it clear they do NOT want the greenspace and community gardens at 9th & Grange to be used for affordable housing. Both associations have shown that there are plenty of empty lots and houses that need to be torn down throughout both neighborhoods that can be used to move affordable houses to the neighborhood without using the greenspace.

As I mentioned in the past both associations have plenty of evidence that the school district and the city have been quietly working behind the scenes to take over this space for affordable housing.

A person who attended the most recent Pettigrew Heights association meeting said a city official(?) told some of the attendees that there is still a plan to move affordable houses to the greenspace (Sanford expansion was mentioned).

The land is currently owned by the School District and they may have to get an appraisal on the land before transferring it. If that happens the school board and the city council would have to approve a land transfer (there may be some legal issues with usage). The city could take it over as a park or they could try to transfer the land for affordable housing (the city already maintains the space for the school district).

I guess the first place to watch is the school board, who currently make most decisions behind closed doors, then show up to the public meeting to rubber stamp those nontransparent decisions. The agendas will have to be scrutinized closely because they may try to slip it in on the consent agenda.

As of today, the school district maintains they have NO plans for the space . . . but would they tell us if they did?

While I support the task force to combat homelessness, I do agree with a couple of aspects from the people who emailed the city council to oppose it. The data and research has been done for several years, you just need to act and I think the TF should consist of stakeholders in the neighborhood, not friends of the mayor and council. Michelle makes some good points about the opportunity to act over the years. Mayor TenHaken promised in his 1st campaign he would make it a priority, the problem has only gotten worse. It will be an interesting debate tonight.

The first email is from former city councilor Michelle Erpenbach;

Good afternoon, City Council members.

Thank you for your service, and for taking a few minutes to review my reasons for asking you to vote no tomorrow on item 76 — against yet another Homeless Task Force. I would be there in person Tuesday, but I will be working in a neighborhood where Thrive’s Kid Link initiative is supporting programming that seeks to help prevent homelessness among children in our schools.

Homelessness is a complex topic that does not have a single silver-bullet solution. It takes many individuals and organizations with like minds and missions, working collaboratively! Your proposed new task force would splinter existing efforts while ignoring work that has been done recently — and continues to be done – by city staff, Helpline and other local non-profits, members of the Thrive Housing Action Team, and by the city/county Accessible Housing Advisory Board.

It’s time to stop studying and start doing, friends. I’m happy to schedule time to help you catch up with this important topic. In the meantime, please review these links and my comments:

  1. Thrive Housing Action Team (including city, county, and federal staff!) created a Housing Retention Specialist in 2021. Pilot program at East River Legal Services has successfully prevented eviction for 9 families and their children in just a year of operation. The real need? City partnership to take this from pilot to sustainability. Read more: https://siouxfallsthrive.org/children-families-secure-housing/. These conversations are already in the works.
  2. The Accessible Housing Advisory Board, city staff Amos Abu, and a variety of housing stakeholders including Helpline Center and Thrive are working on a Housing Navigation Portal that will help connect tenants with potential housing that meets their existing needs and budget. The real need? Council support and funding to help make the portal a reality.
  3. Former city housing staff (Chellee Unruh) met with clients of the St. Francis House and others to learn more about specific needs from that unique community. The real need? I would recommend reviewing this existing data, so you get a better understanding of this topic from the people living it every day.
  4. Thrive Housing Action Team (again, including city, county, and federal staff) created the OneRoof project that is providing wraparound services for those families who are most difficult to house. This is no longer a pilot and is thriving inside The Community Outreach. Read more: https://siouxfallsthrive.org/oneroof-evaluation/The real need? City support for the unmet needs that some of these folks continue to have.
  5. City/county project Just Home is tackling homelessness for those people impacted by the justice system. The real need? Council members to become well-versed in this important project and ready to support proposals that will come your way within months.
  6. Key non-profits are providing services for our unhoused neighbors. The real need? City council members to acknowledge the important work of St. Francis House, Bishop Dudley and UGM, and encourage them to work together in a stronger spirit of collaboration.
  7. Finally, the biggest need is for more local money without state/federal strings attached for building housing that is affordable to the poorest of our neighbors. Those in the 30% of AMI range. This comes in the form of a Housing Trust Fund. Even Rapid City has an HTF now and it is fully funded while the city of Sioux Falls didn’t grasp the idea when it was proposed 10 years ago. Thrive’s Housing Action Team is taking the challenge and will have a presentation for you in the coming months.

Again, please don’t splinter ongoing work and collaborations. Please encourage the city to instead join these organizations in building a better partnership and collective impact.

Stop studying and start doing.

Michelle Erpenbach

President

Sioux Falls Thrive

The second email is from Anny Libengood from Minnehaha County Human Services;

Hi, I am a social worker and was a front line worker at Human Services for 18 years. Most recently I was the Housing Navigator. During this time, I became closely and extensively involved in the lives of many vulnerable people in addition to learning the inner workings of community resources. 

The first thing elected leaders need to do is educate themselves on what work and research has already been done. They need to know what programs are out there, have been out there, and what programs need to shift and what programs need to stop duplicating services/resources. About 15 years ago, we had a 10 year plan to end homelessness as did many communities. We also had the Homeless Advisory Board that did extensive work and research. Did we implement anything? No. Fast forward 15 years and we now have TWO Augustana research studies telling us what the community needs to do. The research was extensive and included perspectives of front line staff and those experiencing homelessness. What have we done with these studies? Checked the box that we did them, I guess. “We” just keep creating groups because “we” can’t figure out what to do. (Thrive, Forward SF, Empower, AHAB, Sioux Empire Leadership Council, etc. etc.) and then none of them talk to each other. Stop studying the problem over and over again. It’s time to start the work. 

A couple of reasons the Bishop Dudley police calls have tripled is because the former director was a former police officer. It was easy for the calls to not be “logged”- and yes this is true. He told me this himself when I was providing case management to the homeless families staying there. He didn’t want the neighborhood or powers above him to see the calls and start complaining. Also, his no trespass list was longer than my arm. The current director has to go through regular police call protocols and she is trying to respect the mission of the BDHH which is Open Doors, Open Arms.

Please reconsider this Task Force and Study idea. I am willing to help educate. All you have to do is ask.

Thank you. I plan to be at the council meeting tomorrow.

Don’t take my word for it;


“There’s no good way to say this, but we are a nice community to be homeless in,” he said. By that, he means that our social service agencies such as The Banquet and Bishop Dudley Hospitality House are strong, well-run organizations. The churches in Sioux Falls are financially stable. The people are generous.



I become less surprised each time Poops tells us exactly what he thinks. First he didn’t sign up for the job, then he thinks candidates are jealous of him when he uses inside information to benefit his campaign, then he is angry about alleged pervert cops now he acts like living homeless in Sioux Falls is the lap of luxury.

It is amazing how incredibly tone deaf our mayor is. He has NO clue of the amount of slum housing and poverty we have in this city, and he doesn’t seem to care, as long as the non-profits take care of it for us.

The city has the resources to make public transit, employment and housing better, but they live in the shiny glass house on the hill and wish the minions below the best of luck.

Many of our issues with food insecurity, housing, addiction and employment could be simply fixed by seeking higher wage employers to which Poops response is ‘we can’t continue this wage inflation, it’s not sustainable.’ But I guess we can continue to allow non-profits to bail out the poor?

So after our unemployment rates drops to almost zero, and we have more warehouse jobs than workers, the city finally engages on a housing plan, read it HERE.

While Director Matt Tobias’ (not sure what his title is since the Poops Admin likes to make up fancy titles every 3 months) presentation was the best I am not sure why it took a decade and a massive board to finally implement a plan just a couple of months from a city election. Matt made great points that I have been harping about for years like promoting the community development programs, increasing the income level of qualification and pushing for up to $30K loans at 0% interest.

Like I said, glad to see the wheels turning, but I am also wondering why it took so long. We have known for over a decade that the city was growing at an enormous rate and density in our core was crucial. Many administrations, private non-profits, councilors and developers have talked about it. In fact I attempted to bring in the Strongtown’s founder over 10 years ago to speak on it, but I couldn’t get enough people to help donate to his gas money and hotel room. When he eventually came, I had to chuckle when people said to me if I had heard of him.

I will tell you why it has taken so long to get the ball rolling; GREED and the cornfields are running out.

Just listen to what Greg Neitzert said about it, once again defending the developers and contractors and how gosh darn it, they need to make money or the plan won’t work. I agree, anyone in business for themselves needs to make a profit and they need to eat, but I have rarely met a large developer in this town that is living in central Sioux Falls in a 900 sq ft home. With their profit margins, no state income tax, low labor costs and multiple tax incentives, they do ok. There is absolutely NO reason why they can’t do projects in the core building density and NOT make money.

I also look at this as LOCAL economic development. Most of the smaller contractors that do this kind of work are local, they live here, their workers live here and likely they buy materials and tools here. That all gets recirculated into the economy.

Don’t fool yourself, these policies have been researched for a long time, but like most things in this city and even country, if someone can’t figure out how to gouge the consumer the feckless leaders don’t act. This is one of the main reasons it infuriated me that they are asking for a raise. I guess they think they need to be paid more for doing less.

You know what they say, even if you know your are wrong, never admit it, just dig in deeper. During the latest episode of Inside Town Hall in which Councilor Brekke tells us to eat more vegetables and drive electric cars, Jensen continues to push the narrative that if we just give contractors and developers even more tax breaks we will get more housing (he supports legislative proposals that would create entire neighborhood TIFs, instead of individual homeowners and a rebate of excise taxes to contractors). While at the same time promoting (low-wage) workers to live someplace else. When it comes to affordable and accessible housing, it starts at the bottom, not at the top. But not in Sioux Falls, hand all the TIFilicious goodies to the ones at the top hoping they will throw us some crumbs while spray painting the poorer neighborhoods sidewalks.

And why would we NOT think Alex’s plan wouldn’t work? He works at the number #1 bank in the Nation, and he had no problem advertising the place while appearing on a tax payer funded program. Actually surprised me because every time he sits on the dais at Carnegie he has no problem flaunting his SF City Council logo wear puffy vest we all paid for (even though I suggested they just all get magnetic badges instead). It must have been at the cleaners when he recorded this show so he had to wear his primary employer’s vest instead.