A new sober living home will soon open in Sioux City to help men struggling with addiction who may be homeless.
Hope Street of Siouxland has five bedrooms and 10 beds for men, a kitchen, living room and showers. Staff even want to add a pool table. Program Director Sara Johnson says they want people to feel at home while on the road to recovery.
“And we’re really intentionally choosing to create a family for those individuals who are going to live here,” Johnson said.
Each bedroom has two beds, two closets and two laundry baskets.
Johnson said people living in the home will have access to a case manager and nearby addiction treatment services in downtown Sioux City. They'll have to submit two urine samples a week to ensure sobriety. People will attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and find employment.
The goal of Hope Street, Johnson said, is to combat the cycle of addiction and be a place for people who tend to go back and forth between living on the streets and going to the hospital or going to jail.
“We’re going to be another option for them to have some safe living space and hopefully help change that cycle and really address what their basic needs are, whether it’s mental health, addiction, employment,” Johnson said.
The Native American community in and around Sioux City is disproportionately affected by substance abuse. Native Americans have consistently made up the highest portion of public intoxication arrests in Sioux City between 2013 and 2018. According to data from the Sioux City Police Department, police arrested nearly 190 Native Americans for public intoxication last year, making up close to half of the people arrested for public intox in the city.
Michael Wandbi Gdeska O’Connor, a member of the Yankton Sioux Tribe of South Dakota, works in Sioux City. He said substance abuse is a “symptom of an underlying problem”: A lack of cultural awareness, resources and even a lack of cultural competency from the resources already in the community.
“The Native American community has been engaged in a very real crisis situation,” O’Connor said. “When I see my relatives panhandling and freezing and being rejected by these service providers for a lack of cultural competency, I experience more stress than they do, because I view them as my relatives. There is no separation between they and I."
O’Connor took a tour of Hope Street of Siouxland on Wednesday. He said he hopes the staff will be able to understand and accept people from the various cultures that live in the Sioux City metropolitan area. That includes portions of western Iowa, northeast Nebraska and southeast South Dakota.
“It’s very difficult for someone who is struggling with addiction to ask for help,” O’Connor said. He is worried that if people working at the sober living home are not “culturally competent," they “may trigger a stereotype” which could ultimately “interfere with [their] effectiveness with that individual who needs help.”
Johnson said Hope Street staff are doing ongoing training in cultural sensitivity to learn how to communicate better with people from all cultures in the tri-state area.
Hope Street staff are hoping to open the facility in the next couple of weeks. People will have to apply for a place in the home.
Last summer, a group of people from the Siouxland Street Project and the Native American community were pushing to open a detoxification center in Sioux City by the end of the 2018, to primarily help Native Americans and homeless people. Johnson said this is still the longterm goal, but the immediate need the group is addressing is providing housing for individuals.
“They can’t even start their path to recovery unless they have a safe sober living space,” Johnson said.