116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — Shelter House in Iowa City has opened a second building offering permanent, supportive housing for individuals experiencing chronic homelessness.
The three-story building at 501 Southgate Ave., adjacent to Shelter House, has been lauded as a transformational “housing first” effort that will save lives by providing no-barrier housing for 36 men and women.
“The work we do within these walls is based on the understanding that safe, affordable housing is essential to health,” said Crissy Canganelli, executive director of Shelter House. “For the men and women to be housed here, I'll go one step further and say that it is a precursor to health.”
Shelter House broke ground on the building — with 36 one-bedroom units — last June. A year later, elected officials, community partners and stakeholders were invited to an opening ceremony before residents begin to move in later this week.
501 Southgate is the second “housing first” project for the organization. The first, Cross Park Place, opened in 2019 at 820 Cross Park Ave., south of Highway 6.
“Housing first” is an approach that first provides stable housing for those experiencing chronic homelessness and then addressing behavioral, mental health or addiction issues.
Shelter House will provide on-site case management at 501 Southgate for residents and an exam room for partnering physical and behavioral health practitioners. Participation in services is voluntary.
‘Will save lives’
Debi Durham, director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority and Iowa Finance Authority, said the opening of Cross Park Place in 2019 was her first official event as director of the finance authority.
She said she walked out a believer in “housing first.”
“This work not only sets the gold standard for serving the chronically homeless in Iowa, but I also know that it will soon serve as a national example housing first done well,” Durham said during Tuesday’s opening of 501 Southgate.
501 Southgate is another example “centered on innovation,” she said.
“This project will not only allow Iowans to be served more efficiently, it really, truly, will save lives,” Durham said.
The Iowa Finance Authority awarded $2.7 million to the project, which is the same amount it contributed to construction of Cross Park Place. The Johnson County Housing Trust Fund awarded $1.04 million.
The building’s first residents are expected to move in later this week, and the building will be at full occupancy by mid-July, Canganelli said.
Residents will pay 30 percent of their income and can live at 501 Southgate without expectations beyond that of a typical lease.
The 36 residents moving into 501 Southgate were first engaged through street outreach.
Brycen Myers, as Shelter House’s street outreach and engagement specialist, goes into the community and builds relationships with individuals experiencing homelessness.
"We have been working with them, engaged with them, through outreach for over a year and a half at this point in time, so that's how we're able to really get this program up and running,“ Myers said. ”That's why we're able to move people in the building from day one.“
Myers will be the permanent supportive housing program manager at 501 Southgate.
The building follows a trauma-informed design and creates a feeling of home, Canganelli said.
Trauma-informed design includes lots of natural light, tall ceilings and monotone colors, Myers said. The intention is to maintain a physically calm environment, Myers said.
“Together, we are ending homelessness one person and one family at a time,” Canganelli said. “Together, we are changing lives. Together, we are building community.”
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