116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY - It took a little longer than many would have hoped, but officials with Iowa City's Shelter House have secured a spot for a temporary homeless shelter this winter.
Crissy Canganelli, executive director of Shelter House in Iowa City, said the temporary, low-barrier shelter could open its doors to those in need of a warm place to sleep as soon as Dec. 14, thanks in large part to what she said was an 'incredibly generous” donation from SouthGate Companies, 755 Mormon Trek Boulevard.
SouthGate will allow Shelter House to set up the temporary shelter - rent free from December through March, with Shelter House responsible for utilities - at the former TMone building, at 1925 Boyrum St. on the corner of Boyrum Street and Southgate Avenue, just across the street from Shelter House, 429 Southgate Ave.
'We've been looking and we've been talking with people, but property owners outright said no or the rent that we were going to need to come up with made the project unfeasible,” Canganelli said. 'We have finally worked through the details and are going to be partnering with SouthGate this year ... it's only because of that that we're going to be able to proceed with the project.”
Joe Hughes, director of real estate operations for SouthGate, said the agreement with Shelter House worked out perfectly.
'We've had this property in mind for the Shelter House overflow for months. Our goal was to provide a much needed solution for people who are struggling in our community and do it as soon as possible,” he said in an email. 'When we learned that the building will be available for this winter, we jumped on the opportunity to create a warm home for those most in need.”
The shelter will mirror services provided last winter.
Last winter, for more than two months, the former Aldi grocery store at 1534 S. Gilbert St. was offered at rent free from Hodge Construction and retrofitted to provide a warm place to sleep for more than 120 individuals, at approximately 25 people per night.
Many of those who used the shelter did not meet the requirements to stay at Shelter House, which again received the temporary use permit this winter to increase bed capacity at the main shelter from 70 beds to 90.
Outside of a new location, Canganelli said she hopes keep the shelter open for 13 weeks to ensure that winter has passed by the time the temporary service ends. Last year's shelter was open for 10 weeks.
Keeping the shelter open longer will require some extra funding, Canganelli added. While last year's project cost $48,500, Canganelli said she hopes to reach a little more than $69,000 to fund this year's effort.
So far, Shelter House has raised nearly $40,000, with donations and grants from Iowa City, Johnson County, the Community Foundation of Johnson County, Wal-Mart and Sanctuary Community Church, Canganelli said.
That leaves a gap in financing of about $30,000, so communication with other local municipalities like Coralville and North Liberty will soon begin.
Canganelli noted that, with Shelter House's operating budget lacking in reserves this year, the shelter will be seeking support to cover the gap in finances to fund the temporary shelter.
Last year, the temporary shelter also reduced communitywide vagrancy issues by at least 70 percent, reduced visits to area emergency rooms for exposure issues and decreased jail stays among those who would otherwise not stay at the shelter, Canganelli said.
With the temperatures continuing to drop, Canganelli said securing a location for the temporary shelter is a great achievement.
'You do see these other communitywide benefits that are important, but it's also important on the human rights level, it's the right thing to do,” she said.
While SouthGate typically works in rental units and new housing developments, Hughes said the agreement allows for a new way to provide housing in the community.
'Our passion is helping those in our community. This year, we are fortunate enough to own a large commercial building that is vacant and pending sale in close proximity to the Shelter House,” he said. 'We believe strongly in keeping people out of the elements during periods of dangerous weather, so we are happy to open the doors of our building this winter.”