Willis Dady adds supportive housing to combat homelessness

Wellington Heights house meant to assist chronically homeless individuals

Phoebe Trepp, executive director of Willis Dady Homeless Services, shares plans for a house recently purchased by Willis Dady in the Wellington Heights neighborhood of southeast Cedar Rapids on Monday, Jan. 22, 2018. Once renovated, the house will be able to accommodate six people in permanent housing, supported by a staff member from Willis Dady, using concepts of peer support and community living. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Phoebe Trepp, executive director of Willis Dady Homeless Services, shares plans for a house recently purchased by Willis Dady in the Wellington Heights neighborhood of southeast Cedar Rapids on Monday, Jan. 22, 2018. Once renovated, the house will be able to accommodate six people in permanent housing, supported by a staff member from Willis Dady, using concepts of peer support and community living. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — In its efforts to reduce chronic homelessness, Willis Dady Homeless Services has acquired a house it plans to add to the stock of housing that meshes affordability with social services.

The group took possession this month of a home in the 1600 block of Washington Avenue SE in Wellington Heights.

Unlike a homeless shelter where stays typically are limited to a time period, permanent supportive housing like this is seen as a long-term affordable housing option where tenants typically pay below-market rental rates. But like most homeless shelters, permanent supportive housing typically comes paired with case management to address some of the issues that may contribute to homelessness.

Willis Dady Executive Director Phoebe Trepp Trepp said about 80 percent of homeless individuals need some degree of assistance before they find stable housing.

“Multiple things happen at once,” Trepp said. “It’s usually something like an illness or a family separation or job loss, so they have no support and no money. Those are the two reasons why everyone comes to us: no money and no support where they can go crash somewhere.”

But 20 percent of homeless individuals are chronically homeless.

“What we see a lot is mental health issues, a physical chronic health condition and substance abuse issue,” Trepp said. “When you look at people who have been homeless for two years or homeless off and on every month for the last five years ... there’s some combination of those three things happening.”

Willis Dady already was building four efficiency-style apartments onto its shelter, meant to serve as permanent supportive housing units for single adults. The Crestwood Ridge project, along Edgewood Road NE, will have five permanent-supportive housing units for families that Willis Dady will manage.

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But Trepp said area homeless shelters realized the need for more supportive housing, especially for couples without children or multigenerational families.

The house Willis Dady purchased has four bedrooms on the second floor and one large bedroom on the third floor. The rooms will be rented to tenants for no more than 30 percent of an individual’s income. Tenants will sign a lease in order to rent a room, but there is no time limit.

“This is something that is an alternative,” she said. “This is for people who want to live in a community with others and aren’t good at developing supportive relationships, but want those.”

The house will need renovations, but Trepp said she hopes the home will be ready this fall.

She said the organization is open to having a mix of tenants in the house. It could fit six single adults or a combination of families with children and couples.

And Trepp said the location is ideal for families, as the house is near the First Congregational United Church of Christ and the Johnson STEAM Academy Magnet School.

Additionally, a Willis Dady staff member will spend about 10 hours a week at the house to build a relationship with tenants. Though tenants would not be partake of services, the staff member would assist them in building relationships with other residents and address issues that contributed to homelessness.

“It’s very hard to meet your goals and achieve things that you want if you’re homeless,” Trepp said. “Over time, we hope we can build that sense of belonging and acceptance and support.”

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

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