Government

Location set for winter overflow shelter in Cedar Rapids

Old Salvation Army building in downtown will be converted

Phoebe Trepp stands by a bunk bed in one of the overnight rooms at Willis Dady Homeless Services in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017. Trepp is the executive director at Willis Dady. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Phoebe Trepp stands by a bunk bed in one of the overnight rooms at Willis Dady Homeless Services in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017. Trepp is the executive director at Willis Dady. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — An emergency winter overflow shelter has been secured for people living on the streets, an advocate said Thursday.

The overflow shelter will be in an old Salvation Army commercial building at 719 Third Ave. SE and should be ready Dec. 1. The space, owned by KSMAR LLC, is vacant.

“The plan is, it is such a big space and utilities are so high, and the owner needs some of the building for storage, that we are going to put in a temporary wall,” said Phoebe Trepp, executive director of Willis Dady Homeless Services.

Other steps to prepare the space include repairing some broken windows, checking plumbing since it has been off for a while, moving in items from storage and hiring staff, she said. Crews will begin working on the building Friday, she said.

Trepp described the “large, open space” as ideally located, but noted the cost is twice as much as the $5,000 budget for the season. Two donations have come in, leaving a $2,800 gap, she said.

If that gap can’t be filled, the shelter could close earlier than expected, but Trepp said she is confident the money can be raised. The overflow shelter typically is open through the end of March.

The Linn County Continuum of Care, a council of local service providers for low-income residents that includes at least 15 homeless shelters, has worked to provide overflow shelter services during cold months of the year.

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The hope was to open an overflow shelter by Nov. 15, but securing a location proved difficult this year.

As temperatures have dipped as low as 14 degrees, concern has increased for area homeless residents.

“People are going to freeze; people are getting rousted by (police). Where can they go?” said Tony Goodwin, a former homeless man turned advocate said at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. “Dec. 1 is too far out.”

Goodwin urged city officials to “push things a little further.” He’s called for a permanent overflow shelter as a resource that would help those living on the streets get a job and get back on their feet.

The new temporary shelter should be large enough to hold 40 to 50 people, which would accommodate the population expected to be living outdoors here this winter, Trepp said. Last year, 470 different people were served by the overflow shelter. The building that housed last year’s shelter was sold, creating the need to find the new location.

Cedar Rapids has approximately 75 permanent beds for homeless people and additional beds for special circumstances.

The city of Cedar Rapids provided a list of its current activities and support for homeless residents. Among those, the city has:

• Contributed $22,000 annually to the Continuum of Care, along with Linn County and other donors.

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• Worked closely with the consortium to ensure code compliance on health and safety issues in the overflow shelter.

• Directed a federal Community Development Block Grant and HOME Investment Partnerships Program money for homeless shelters and service providers, including $140,217 for six agencies this year.

• Secured a Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing grant, which provided 12 additional Housing Choice Vouchers, to help veterans and their families facing homelessness.

• Assisted the Housing Fund for Linn County by providing $24,000 to meet the local match requirement to leverage state funding to increase the amount of resources coming into the community, including deposit assistance to families facing homelessness in Cedar Rapids.

l Comments: (319) 398-8310; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

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