Area Homeless Shelters Deal with the Cold

By Jill Kasparie, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Overnight temperatures are leaving their mark on homeless shelters in Eastern Iowa.

The winter weather impacts homeless families and shelters across Eastern Iowa.

The Willis Dady Emergency Shelter Director Tim Wilson said the shelter has currently been forced to turn away men looking for a place to stay. All 16 of the beds are filled.

Wilson said there are many reasons behind the increase. The weather and losing jobs at the end of the year are just a couple. The shelter acts quickly when the temperatures drop to a dangerous level. It opens up space like any extra couches and cots to additional people who need a place to stay on bitterly cold nights, which workers have already done twice this year.

The shelter also provides some apartments for homeless families. Wilson said surpisingly, the facility does have room for families right now. That's quickly changing, though.

"I think for the holidays, it's a little easier for people to find a place to stay with friends or other family and that ... seems to be changing already here at the first of the year. That welcome has worn out and they are looking for shelter," Wilson said.

Amy Northrup was one of those people living with family members over the holidays. She said she split up her family to deal with their recent homeless situation. Now she's bringing her 10-year-old son and husband to the Willis Dady Shelter for a brighter future.

"We have been staying with my husband's son and it's hard living with other people, and so we are just trying to get our family back together," Northrup said.

A new homeless shelter program is also opening just in time for the season. About a month ago, Family Promise of Linn County started operating to help homeless families.

"We have 11 partner congregations who have agreed to provide overnight shelter, home-cooked meals, a caring environment, a smile, a warm welcome for families," said Executive Director Becky Knudson. "So, they each take a week at a time and they gather their own volunteers from within their congregations."

The program is open to three families, one slot is currently filled.

Knudson said she knows it's vital to provide services at this time, saying it's dangerous to have children or homeless men and women sleeping in cars out in the cold.

Many area shelters in the Cedar Rapids area said despite the busy time during the cold months, some did have open beds.
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