Government

Cold weather arrives before Cedar Rapids overflow shelter ready

Still a week to go before work can start to convert the permanent shelter

The Fillmore Center in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
The Fillmore Center in Cedar Rapids on Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — A winter overflow shelter for people without homes or other options in Cedar Rapids is not expected to be ready for a few more weeks, concerning some as cold weather settles in early this year.

Phoebe Trepp, executive director of Willis Dady Homeless Services and a member of the Linn County Continuum of Care, which manages the overflow shelter, said service providers and clients have been seeking details about the opening of the shelter.

The shelter is expected to be based at the Linn County-owned Fillmore Center, 520 11th St. NW.

“It is a big concern,” Trepp said. “At Willis Dady, we are providing overflow in our own rooms, which are tight already.”

She said Willis Dady’s facility has been serving seven to 10 people a night in an overflow capacity when the temperature has dropped below freezing. She noted the problem is compounded as more people than usual are sleeping outside in Cedar Rapids, a trend she nor police can explain, she said.

In September, local officials expressed relief when Linn County Supervisors authorized use of Fillmore as an overflow — an outcome reached much earlier than the kind of last-minute scrambling to find a location that had become an annual occurrence.

Last year, for example, a location wasn’t identified until November and didn’t open until December — well after temperatures turned frigid.

This year, Cedar Rapids already has seen its first snowfall and overnights have been routinely falling into the teens. It’s fall to just 9 degrees overnight between Monday and Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service.

The Fillmore Center, however, still is in use as a child and youth development center. That function is expected to relocate to the new Dr. Percy and Lileah Harris Building, but not until Nov. 14, Trepp said.

Then, furniture and other equipment must be moved out, the space must be retrofitted — such as replacing children’s toilets with ones for adults — and cots and other supplies must be moved in. Trepp said she is hopeful the shelter can open by the end of the week of Nov. 18.

“We are very eager to get started as soon as possible,” Trepp said.

The Fillmore Center has been proposed as a long-term overflow, so the local providers may be nearing a permanent solution to the race against winter.

“We’d be ready to roll if it ever gets this cold,” Trepp said.

County Supervisor Ben Rogers, who has been an advocate for repurposing the Fillmore Center as an overflow shelter, said his hope is the shelter will be open by the end of the month. He said the timing will depend on how quickly the move can occur and the space be prepared.

“We had been hoping for an earlier opening date, but more realistically seems to be the end of the month,” Rogers said.

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

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