SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) – Repair work continues on a burned-out bridge on Interstate 29 through downtown Sioux City. You may remember that fire sparked last week in a transient camp located under the bridge.
On Monday, officials familiar with the local homeless issue say they face growing numbers of people with no place to live.
The Gospel Mission said all this year, they’ve noticed people walking through their doors to get basic necessities. An increase the Gospel Mission and other shelters are struggling to keep up with.
“We have been at full capacity for most of this year which is unusual,” said Mahaffie.
Paul Mahaffie is the Executive Director of the Gospel Mission. He said Sioux City’s homeless population is constantly growing.
“The restaurant where we serve meals that is up to about 300 per day plus the food pantry we have had a few months up to 18,000 meals in one month,” said Mahaffie.
The Gospel Mission currently has a waitlist of over 40 people wanting to stay in their shelters.
“There is more homeless in this town than even all the people have any concept of that are not even in shelters or anything,” said Mahaffie.
Beyond the waitlist of people looking for help are the number of homeless individuals who refuse help.
“Some people, you are just not going to help, that’s the sad but true story. They have to want to be helped first. You can’t instill that in them,” Mahaffie said.
It is a group that can create some challenges for local authorities.
“We have to have the owners request to remove people from that property, so that way we do have a legal ground to stand on because people do have a 4th Amendment right. And when we intrude upon that it can get a little cloudy,” said Sergeant Jeremy McClure, the community policing sergeant.
Sioux City Police are asking the public not to give money to panhandlers throughout the city, saying it is not the right avenue for those wanting to help the city’s homeless population.
“I know we all want to help and give them a little something, but it adds to the problem and encourages that behavior,” said McClure.
The Sioux City Police Department is currently working with the city’s fire marshals to locate those involved with the I-29 fire last week. Any potential charges would come from the fire marshal’s office.