Homeless camp fires continue to frustrate Sioux City

Published: Jan. 21, 2022 at 6:09 PM CST
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SIOUX CITY (KTIV) - Police and a local service agency say homeless campfires are reported about three times a year.

And sometimes, they have severe consequences.

On Thursday, a railroad track was closed, after what’s believed to be an accidental fire at a camp.

In 2019, a homeless campfire caused Interstate 29 to be closed. Recently, Sioux City implemented a new process for dealing with encampments.

First, the homeless are notified they have to leave and are connected with resources. If they don’t move, police step in.

“And at the end of a three-day period, if the items still have not been removed in the city services, do come in at that time and clean up to camp,” said Sgt. J Hoogendyk with Sioux City police.

Some of Siouxland’s homeless say the camps shouldn’t be visited.

“I just think it’s really scary....,” said Nicholas Perez.

Law enforcement officers say they prefer to connect the homeless with resources, instead of arresting them. But no law requires anyone to accept the resources.

“I mean, part of our rules, he can’t be here and be drunk, he can’t be high on drugs or whatever. And they would rather have that freedom and sleep under the bridge when it’s 20 below, then have a warm place to sleep and start a life over,” said Director Paul Mahaffie of the Sioux City Gospel Mission.

Mahaffie says he’s seen an increase in mental illness in the homeless community, as mental health facilities have closed. Sometimes people are dropped off at the Gospel Mission, but the organization doesn’t have the ability to handle the issue.

Those looking for resources pertaining to homelessness can find them here.

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