Community program

The Rapid City We Connect Community program helps the homeless community

RAPID CITY, SD (KELO) — Homelessness is a growing problem in Rapid City. And it’s not going away anytime soon.

Several organizations have now come together to help people deal with these situations.

As the weather warms up here in Rapid City, city dwellers and tourists alike are enjoying the downtown attractions.

It is also an area where you will notice the growing homeless population.

As more and more people move into the city, there are also more homeless people. The homeless population has increased by 30%.

“The problem is not going to go away without a huge effort. It requires the effort of business people, of health care providers, and it also requires the effort of people on the street. We need to work on this level of trust so that it allows caregivers to provide care. The business owner needs to have that same kind of trust in the caregivers to get the problem resolved,” said Dan Tribby, General Manager of Prairie Edge.

Six weeks ago, Dan Tribby discovered Journey On. It is a group of people who are called upon to intervene in situations with homeless people that are not emergencies.

“We step in when they need transport or if there is a de-escalation that needs to be done. We are able to come and help business owners and the situations they encounter with the homeless community,” said Krystal Rencountre, Journey On.

“When we worked with the police department, the response time was anywhere from 10-15 minutes to three hours, it was just because they were overwhelmed. When we first started using the services of Journey On, firstly we saw a very quick response time, but the second really impressive thing is the compassion they show towards people in need,” Tribby said.

Tribby also introduced Journey On to his team.

“Now they feel pretty well equipped to be able to get their hands on Journey On and work things out,” Tribby said.

Journey On has been around for about 2 years and last November they joined the Rapid City Police Department. Since then, Krystal Rencountre says the group has taken thousands of calls from the department.

“We are assessing the situation and we are able to get people to places without the police involved, without them having a $900 ambulance bill. We are able to step in and help them get to their medical needs or doctor’s appointments or accommodation,” Rencountre said.

“They stepped in and started taking some of the lower level calls that didn’t involve violence and things that they were initially comfortable with and they’re taking those calls now. We don’t even have to go,” said Lt. Tim Doyle, community engagement manager with the RCPD.

When someone calls 911, the dispatcher will decide if the homeless person needs emergency law enforcement or something else.

“It helps us do other things so we can enforce traffic, we can do proactive things in the most violent neighborhoods, that’s what we do best so they take those calls is a call that we can go do something else,” Lt. Doyle said.

From the rest of April through next month, organizations and more are coming together to talk about “WeConnectCommunity” which gives people several options when people encounter a homeless person. What is all included in the business toolbox.

“The Business Toolkit is a resource guide to help businesses and their employees understand and respond to the needs of Rapid City’s homeless population. It provides them with very practical tools and advice that they can use to help them connect, as its name suggests with We Connect Community, to social services that can provide them with a longer term and more sustainable solution to their situation,” Tara Wilcox, Volunteers for America, said.

By educating businesses and individuals about this issue and how to handle it calmly and effectively, Tara Wilcox with Volunteers of America hopes it will provide a safer environment for everyone in Rapid City.

The next “We Connect Community” meeting will be held next week on Mountain View Road in Rapid City.