City responds to removal of tipi camp

RAPID CITY, S.D. —Tensions rose between Rapid City officials and a local organization called the Creek Patrol after a night of turmoil.

The issue of how to help the homeless population continues with no agreeable solution. The Native community and city leaders are at odds, after the removal of four tipi’s from along Rapid Creek near the Central States Fairgrounds and six arrests.

For several weeks, the Creek Patrol has worked with Mayor Allender to find a solution to the problem of homelessness in Rapid City. Allender was tasked with evaluating a plot of land the patrol requested, and the patrol was to search for indigenous run programs that would aid local Natives.

Despite seemingly coming to an agreement for a solution, Creek Patrol erected the tipi’s without proper permits in an area considered a flood zone. 

“One of the things that came up was the city providing land for an encampment that could eventually become permanent housing,” said Mayor Allender. “And while I don’t support or endorse an encampment, especially in South Dakota in the winter, I did express an interest in working with them to evaluate the land they had chosen as a perspective location.

Although, the land in question is being evaluated, Mayor Allender said it would not be possible for the city to work to keep the public safe, while also authorizing a winter camp, and that he would ultimately not approve a “tent city”. While the Creek Patrol wants to work with the city, they do not believe changes are being made fast enough to help the vulnerable and growing homeless population in Rapid City.

“They’re saying we want people to take initiative and create community based responses, but only that moves exactly at our pace,” said member of the Creek Patrol, Mark Tilsen. “If we move at the pace of the city, people are going to die of exposure and freezing. He (Allender), believes that these people are not citizens, that these people are somehow not constituents, that these people are somehow “the other”, when Lakota people, indigenous people have been living here forever.”

Allender says $7.5 million are dedicated to helping the homeless, with $100,000 of that being allocated to the Cornerstone Rescue Mission. Yet, homelessness remains an issue. Allender recognizes the ongoing problem, but believes the homeless are being exploited.

“Every conversation about the homeless in the last month, has been peppered with phrases like “stolen land” and “treaty violations” and “getting land back” and that sort of thing,” said Allender. “And so, it appears that there’s something much larger at hand than simply seeking shelter for the homeless.”

The argument and impetus for placing the tipi’s in the city without warning Friday evening, was the area being public land, frigid temperatures, and lack of bed space at local shelters. 

“We made multiple calls to service providers here in our community, to include the Care Campus, to include the Cornerstone Rescue Mission,” said Chief Don Hedrick. “I can tell you, there were open beds in both locations, and it just speaks to the fact that, it’s hard for us to condone an outdoor camping location when we know existing resources are there and available.”

Both the Rapid City Police Department and the Creek Patrol have put out calls to action asking the community if anyone needed assistance, but there are still opposing views on how to aid the homeless. The creek patrol has taken to watching over the homeless at night, as well as feeding and providing warmth, while the city wants to see the homeless housed from the cold. The homeless, can only hope for a lasting solution.

Categories: Local News, South Dakota News