MITCHELL, S.D.-The 2018 Statewide Point-in-Time Homeless Count taken Jan. 23 found 1,159 homeless individuals in South Dakota, an increase from the 955 counted in 2017.

This year in Davison County, 11 people met the criteria to be considered homeless, and all of them were in shelters.

"Fortunately in Mitchell, our homeless count is not high," said Bev Robinson, who heads a local network that works to address the needs of area homeless. "That being said, one person out in the cold is one too many," she added.

The annual Point-In-Time census counts the homeless individuals volunteers and others find as they fan out for one day each January, checking community shelters, agency-funded motel rooms and frequented homeless locations, such as under bridges.

Weather affects the annual census, and a storm raged in 2017, probably accounting for this year's 21 percent increase over last year. In 2017, there were reports of several people pooling their money to rent a motel room to get out of the storm, said Davis Schofield, continuum of care administrator with the South Dakota Housing Development Authority in Pierre. Under federal Department of Housing and Urban Development criteria, those individuals would not qualify as homeless on that day.

Of the 1,159 homeless individuals counted in South Dakota this year, 37 percent were female. Other findings:

  • 18 percent were children under the age of 18, 7 percent were young adults between the ages of 18 to 24, and 75 percent were adults over age 24.
  • 75 percent were sheltered and 25 percent were unsheltered.
  • 110 persons were veterans compared with 130 veterans counted in 2017.

Nearly 80 percent of the state's homeless this year were concentrated in three areas: Dewey County, 155; Sioux Falls, 374; and Rapid City, 385.

On census day, zero homeless individuals were found in the regional counties of Tripp, Jones, Jerauld, Hutchinson, Hanson, Todd, Lyman, Gregory, Douglas and Aurora. Yankton County had 12, Charles Mix had eight and Brule had one.

Until the Mitchell Area Networking Association took over the annual census a few years ago, Davison County's count reflected only those lodged at the Mitchell Area Safehouse and Family Visitation Center.

The count now provides a truer local picture, said Coleen Smith, coordinator of the shelter for victims of domestic violence.

"I think we're better at reaching them by working with MANA," Smith said.

MANA's mission is to strengthen cooperation and communication and to develop positive working relationships among service agencies, said Robinson, who is president of the network. Homeless individuals in the area lack a central point of contact, which can leave them wondering where to turn for help, said Robinson, who is also service coordinator at Cathedral Square, a provider of affordable housing.

MANA members meet voluntarily each month to network and put a face to the local providers of human services, so "I know who to contact when somebody needs something," Robinson said. MANA members get the ball rolling when homeless assistance is needed, and include Safehouse, the Division of Economic Assistance in the Department of Social Services, the Department of Human Services, long-term care services, hospice, Dakota Counseling and many others.

The network helps but it's not perfect, Robinson said. "We are doing the best we can with what we have."

In June, the housing authority hopes to bring online a statewide coordinated entry system for the homeless.

"When people are having a housing crisis anywhere in state, they will be able to register with the system," Schofield said. The technology will track outcomes, measure wait times and evaluate the success of various homeless programs.

Since its inception in 2001, the South Dakota Housing for the Homeless Consortium has received $21 million in federal funds to develop, operate and support a variety of homeless programs. The annual count is only one factor in the distribution of federal funding for homelessness, Schofield said.