Red Cross shelters housing those displaced by flood

Officials stand ready to open third location if needed

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UPDATE Tuesday, Sept. 27

Kara Kelly, a spokeswoman for the American Red Cross, said the two shelters in Cedar Rapids served 120 individuals overnight Monday and into Tuesday.

While a third shelter is still on standby, Kelly said there’s “still plenty of room at both shelters.”

Anyone displaced by the flood is welcome at the shelters at Cedar Hills Community Church, 6455 E Ave. NW, and St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, 1340 Third Ave. SE. Kelly said Red Cross volunteers are prepared to keep the shelters open for the rest of this week.

CEDAR RAPIDS — Four months ago, Rebecca Myers and Nathaniel Keslar were able to break the cycle of homelessness and move into an apartment in Kingston Village.

Now, due to the coming floodwaters of the Cedar River, they might be homeless again.

Keslar and Myers, both 26, were among displaced Cedar Rapids residents who stayed this weekend in the American Red Cross shelter at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, 1340 Third Ave. SE.

“We’ve been homeless, so this was a very great blessing for us to be able to move into a home,” Myers said. “So for us to be homeless and then to immediately loose our home and everything we’ve earned since we’ve had the home is really disappointing to us.”

The Red Cross opened two shelters in Cedar Rapids over the weekend to prepare for an influx of residents displaced from their homes by the evacuations. The other shelter is at Cedar Hills Community Church, 6455 E Ave. NW.

The shelters saw 88 clients overnight Sunday said Kara Kelly, Red Cross spokeswoman. A third shelter is on standby, ready to open if the others reach capacity.

Kelly said the shelters are open 24 hours, offering services and a safe place to stay for anyone affected by the flood.

Myers and Keslar left their second floor apartment at 105 Fifth St. SW on Sunday.

Both said they struggled with opioid addiction for a year before they were able to get clean, Myers said. From there, she said they worked to be able to afford a place to live and moved in about four months ago.

“We literally started with the clothes we had on our back,” Myers said. “We were sleeping under a semi-trailer.”

The flood also leaves Keslar without work for a week, since The Blue Strawberry Coffee Co. on Second Street SE has closed its doors for the time being.

Keslar said they plan to stay at the shelter until they are allowed back into their apartment. City officials said it’s likely that won’t happen until Saturday, although it is possible it could be Friday.

“I’m thankful for programs like this because (Keslar’s) parents wouldn’t take us in, and my parents wouldn’t take us in,” Myers said. “So I’m thankful for programs like this because we would be absolutely out on the street.”

The shelter at Cedar Hills Church is also Jo-Vivian Smith’s only option. Since she and her husband Aaron Smith, 29, have no family in the area, they are staying with their three children at the shelter until the water recedes.

Smith, 30, said she’s nervous about the uncertainty of the situation.

“It’s the fear of the unknown,” she said.

Elizabeth Nshimirimana, 19, of Cedar Rapids, said by staying at the Red Cross shelter, her 11-member family — including her mother and siblings — is able to stay in the same place. Otherwise, after they left their home at 320 Seventh St. SW, they would be separated across town at the homes of various friends.

“Some of my siblings, I didn’t know where they were,” said Nshimirimana, a student at Jefferson High School.

The Red Cross shelters are to remain open in Cedar Rapids as long as the need is there, Kelly said.

She encourages those who wish to donate to the Red Cross to make a financial contribution to the disaster relief fund at or by texting “redcross” to 90999.

American Red Cross shelters in Cedar Rapids are located at the following places:

-- Cedar Hills Community Church, 6455 E Ave. NW.

-- St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, 1340 Third Ave. SE.

For more information, the Red Cross can be reached at: Greater Iowa Regional Office: (515) 243-7681,

For all of The Gazette's Flood 2016 coverage, please visit our flood coverage center.

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