Homeless Shelters See Increase of People in Need

By Jill Kasparie, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – It's turning out to be a busy time for homeless shelters around Cedar Rapids.

"It just has been a really busy spring," said Director of Homeless & Housing Services at Waypoint Carrie Slagle.

On Monday, organizers said there was only a single opening among five shelters.

In recent months, Waypoint Services has worked to get area homeless shelters on the same page. Now, people who need help can call one number to see if there are openings at any shelter.

Derryl Owens, his wife, and two kids moved into the Willis Dady Emergency shelter about 30 days ago.

"They really help you, they really give you a helping hand," Owens said.

He's one of many living at the shelter without anywhere else to go.

"We have, over the last couple of weeks, on a few nights, we've had actually more than our capacity, which is 16 beds," said Executive Director of the Willis Dady Emergency Shelter Tim Wilson.

Other organizations serving the homeless are seeing the same thing. Executive Director of Family Promise of Linn County said the phone has been ringing quite a bit.

"Very busy -- meeting families who are desperate for shelter, and so we will be taking in two new ones tomorrow and probably a third within a few days," said Executive Director of Family Promise of Linn County Becky Knudson.

Homeless shelter officials in the community said several factors could be playing a role in the increase.

Wilson said they often see an up-tick like this in the spring.

"What happens is people have been able to stay with family or friends and then as the weather gets warmer, people feel, I guess, a little bit less guilty about kicking out their friends or family that have been staying with them over the winter months," Wilson said.

Some also said the temporary closure of Cedar House Emergency Shelter took away about 15 beds for the homeless, but it's hard to pinpoint what's behind the need.

"Sometimes there's no exact reason, of course, homelessness is largely economic. So, someone's inability to afford housing is a main reason people are homeless," Slagle said.

Shelters said they're working to help as many people as they can. That's something people like Derryl are thankful for.

"We would probably be on the streets," Owens said.

Organizations say if there are no open places for people they work with them to see if they can stay with family members or friends. They also sometimes work with them to find them a hotel. People in need are told to call Waypoint every morning about 9:00 to check on open beds at area shelters. That number is 319-366-7999.
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