Overflow homeless shelter finds a home in southwest Cedar Rapids

Supplies, volunteers needed to help prepare space for Nov. 15 opening

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CEDAR RAPIDS — A group of Linn County human services agencies has settled on the building that will serve this winter as an overflow shelter for those who are homeless.

The space, a vacant office building located at 505 33rd Ave. SW, has been offered for use by a local businessman who wishes to remain anonymous, said Phoebe Trepp, executive director of the Willis Dady Homeless Shelter, one of 15 agencies involved in the Linn County Continuum of Care.

“We’re very grateful,” Trepp said. “It’s an old office building that still is for lease. At this point in the season, they didn’t think anyone would jump on it.”

The Continuum of Care will use the space free of charge while paying for utilities.

For the last two winters, the Linn County Continuum of Care activated its Community Overflow Weather Shelter System on nights when the temperature dropped below a certain mark — 32 degrees last year — and the regular shelters were full. This year, the organization plans to keep the overflow shelter open from Nov. 15 to March 15 regardless of the temperature. Again, it will open when regular shelters are at capacity.

Historically, about 20 people have stayed at the overflow shelter on a typical night, but the shelter has housed as many as 40 people on some nights.

Using the Shelter

Those needing to use the overflow shelter should stop by Waypoint Services, 318 Fifth St. SE, or call (319) 366-7999.

The overflow shelter is a wet shelter, meaning those who are intoxicated are allowed to stay the night in the facility as long as they are not harming themselves or others. Those on the sex offender registry also are accepted.

“If they come in intoxicated, that is fine, we’ll give them a cot,” Trepp said. “In the winter it becomes particularly dangerous as their body temperatures are low and they may not be able to go to traditional shelters.

“Those on the sex offender registry, we haven’t had many, but if people are needing that there aren’t any other options.”

In previous years, the overflow shelter was housed at Greene Square Meals and the gymnasium of a local not-for-profit that had a change in programming and could no longer offer its space. Trepp said Friday that an alternative space offered to the group this year couldn’t be used because it did not have a sprinkler system.

The southwest quadrant office building was offered up last weekend, Trepp said. The space is large enough that Greene Square Meals will not be needed this year for overflow space.

However, because many homeless individuals work near downtown or congregate there during the day, Trepp said Continuum of Care officials are working with Horizon’s Neighborhood Transportation Service to offer pickup at 7:45 p.m. Monday through Friday outside the Cedar Rapids Public Library, 450 Fifth Ave. SE.

Those using the service must still check in with Waypoint Services ahead of time before being bused to the overflow shelter.

Payment to the transportation service could reach a total of $4,500 for the season, Trepp said.

The overflow shelter also sits on a Cedar Rapids Transit bus route, so those leaving the shelter in the morning have easy access to transportation, Trepp added.

“(Cedar Rapids Transit) is really about getting people to work, but they are definitely interested in helping us meet the needs of this overflow shelter as well,” she said.

Help Wanted

In order to prepare this year’s overflow shelter for opening night, Trepp said the Continuum of Care has a few requests. The organization is looking for a folding table and chairs, cots, blankets, garbage bags and vacuums.

Additionally, volunteers are needed to help move supplies on Saturday.

To make a donation or to volunteer, send an email to volunteer@willisdady.org.

l Comments: (319) 368-8516; makayla.tendall@thegazette.com

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