CEDAR RAPIDS — The Willis Dady Homeless Services main building Phoebe Trepp walked into when she accepted the executive director position looked very different from the 17,140-square-foot building that stands there today.
When the sinks clogged, water would run from the light fixtures into the office, Trepp recalled with a laugh. Four years later, a $3.1 million expansion project more than doubled the square footage of the facility, added beds and made it handicapped accessible.
After five years on the job, Trepp, 39, will step down from her executive director role at the end of the month to lead Care Housing, a Minneapolis-based affordable housing and health organization serving people leaving homelessness who have HIV/AIDS.
“Being a part of this community has shown me anything is possible when people are really committed and working together,” she said.
Under her leadership, the center embarked on a three-year capital campaign to update the more than 30-year-old building. The renovations, completed in July 2019, allowed the expanded space to go from 16 beds for single men, to 25 beds, with a potential for five additional.
The expansion also added more space for kitchens, laundry, bathrooms and a storm cellar. It allowed more room for computers, too, which people could use to work on resumes or to complete jobs applications.
One of her favorite moments, she recalled, was the capital project was awarded a $1 million grant, which covered a third of its costs.
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Also under her leadership, the center gradually expanded its overflow area operation. In her first year, the overflow, separate from the main building and designed for temporary stays, only opened during a winter advisory.
Gradually they were able to accommodate more people in the overflow area, allowing it to be open most of the year. As efforts to curb the novel coronavirus closed businesses and some government offices, the overflow center continued operating — an accomplishment she’s proud of.
“The thing I’m most proud of is the staff team that has developed in their ability to really change focus and serve our clients despite whatever is going on and they’ll put that aside, and the COVID crisis is a perfect example,” she said. “All of the staff were reassigned to essential duties to keep the overflow open.”
Willis Dady also purchased 16 permanent support houses during her tenure, the first in 2018.
The board of directors is conducting a search process for her replacement.
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