Conflict escalates in feeding Rapid City’s homeless population

Published: Dec. 3, 2021 at 6:57 PM CST
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - There has been an escalating conflict this week between members of Rapid City’s homeless community and city officials.

Mayor Steve Allender is responding after being accused of trying to shut down a weekly feed for the homeless that occurs at the bandshell at Memorial Park. Indigenous activists are also responding to the conflict.

It all began when Mayor Steve Allender expressed concern about property damage related to the Memorial Park bandshell. Allender implied that a weekly homeless feed that occurs there ‘inadvertently causes damage that has to be repaired at taxpayer expense.’

He’s also said that he doesn’t believe the feed is “extremely helpful.”

However, Lloyd BigCrow, who began this weekly tradition, said that it’s needed as the indigenous homeless population continues to grow.

“I feel like for every five people that we get off the streets, we get five more from the surrounding communities, and it feels like our people are lost, and so that’s what we’re trying to help with,” BigCrow said. “We’re trying to help them find themselves in the culture.”

We spoke with Allender by phone Friday afternoon, who says it was only a rumor that he wanted to shut down the weekly meal, and while he may not find it beneficial, he supports the organization’s right to be there.

But co-founder Tom Whillock said that the mayor can prove his support, by helping with the event.

“Come here, set up the tables, serve the meal, distribute clothing, clean up, and go home,” Whillock said. “Once they’ve seen it from the inside, and what we really do without having to hear stories about it, and then let’s meet.”

Willock and BigCrow said that they are willing to meet with city officials sometime next week to resolve the issue.

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