Rooms for Rent Helps Homeless Population

By Jill Kasparie, Reporter

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By Jay Knoll

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa -- There's a new housing option in Cedar Rapids that's getting the attention of low-income residents.

Instead of renting out an entire apartment or home, some landlords are renting out single rooms.

For $350 a month, tenants can rent a single room with utilities. Roommates share kitchen and living room space. It's a cheaper option that's having an impact on a population struggling to make it on their own.

"I have asked over and over is there a room available? Is there a room yet?" said Lawanda Clay.

After all that waiting the 48-year-old Cedar Rapids woman finally landed a room. At a price of $350 a month, it's something she can afford on her own, and for her this has been a long time coming.

"I have been homeless for years, more than five years,” Clay said.

"It was a godsend to her," said Larissa Ruffin. "She would still be on the streets now trying to survive."

Ruffin runs the Catholic Worker House Homeless Shelter where Lawanda used to stay when she wasn't staying in parking lots. The shelter worker said the new rental opportunities are not just helping Lawanda, but it’s helping the entire shelter in a big way.

"We've seen a decrease in single women of at least a quarter,” Ruffin said.

That's making room for more families who need a place to stay.

Denise Beavers is the property manager for some of these homes with rooms for rent, like the home on 16th and Beaver on the southeast side of Cedar Rapids.

"It has turned out to be a new service,” Beavers said. “I don't think it intended to get this big this fast.”

There’s a waiting list for the rooms. Beavers said they are an option for people in the transitional phases of life like those who just lost a job.

"We are finding that government offices, human services are trying to be of help to people, and we're finding that options are becoming slim,” Beavers said. “So for a person in business, that's an opportunity. We want to do our duty to the community as well to make this a win-win situation for everybody,” said

For Lawanda, though, her rental room is more than a small space, it’s home.

"It's better than being outside, that's for sure,” Clay said.

Each year, Linn County homeless programs serve more than 5,000 people.

There are a few different properties across town where people can rent rooms. People can call Denise Beavers who runs a few of them at 319-573-0021 for more information.

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