CORONAVIRUS

Shelter House with city's help provides hotel rooms for overcrowded homeless

Homeless people showing signs of illness relocated to hotel

Crissy Canganelli, executive director of Shelter House, delivers opening remarks during an open house at Cross Park Plac
Crissy Canganelli, executive director of Shelter House, delivers opening remarks during an open house at Cross Park Place on Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019. Cros Park Place is a housing first project of Shelter House. (Gazette file photo)

IOWA CITY — The Shelter House in Iowa City received emergency housing funds from the city to place some homeless people in a hotel, which gives more room for 55 people staying at the shelter day and night.

The city’s funds came at a much-needed time amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Public health officials are advising people to practice social distancing to prevent the spread of the virus, but that was impossible in the shelter space, executive director Crissy Canganelli told The Gazette last week. The shelter had more than 80 people last week.

Christine Ralston, the shelter’s director of development, said the people moved into the hotel were those who showed possible signs of illness, but nobody has tested positive for COVID-19. An on-site case manager is supervising the hotel rooms.

The initial funding is for 15 rooms for 30 days.

Ralston said they also moved 29 homeless people into permanent housing last week, thanks to other federal funding.

Food is being delivered to the hotel, which Ralston declined to name for privacy reasons. The shelter still is preparing food on-site.       

Ralston said the organization is looking for ways to obtain additional funding to try to keep up with the ever-changing crisis.

The winter overflow shelter closed last week, and without public places where homeless people can gather during the day, they now are staying all day at the shelter. Officials were “frustrated” and concerned about safety last week because social distancing wasn’t an option when 80 or more people were staying in the 70-bed facility.

Ralston said the shelter still needs volunteers to help. Many volunteers had to leave because they were older and at risk, and others were University of Iowa students who didn’t return after spring break when classes were canceled.     

Anyone interested in volunteering or making financial donations can contact Shelter House at (319) 351-0326.

Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com

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