Homeless Shelters in Cedar Rapids Filling Up as Temperature Drops

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By Aaron Hepker

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Homeless shelters in the Cedar Rapids area have filled to overflowing as the forecast calls for overnight temperatures in the teens. But shelter operators say the cold weather is not the only reason they’re scrambling to make room for extra guests right now.

Martha Carter, case manager at the Willis Dady Shelter, said that facility is full Monday night for the first time in about a month. And the cold weather obviously plays a part. But she’s also seen more out-of-town people looking for work recently who need a place to stay. And Carter has one other explanation too.

“We have some living with family and friends and it’s simply time to go. So they’re going to have to leave family and friends because they can no longer stay there. It was only a temporary situation to begin with,” Carter said.

The Cedar House Shelter, which provides bed space for homeless men, is actually more than full for Monday night. Founder Ray Krug said capacity is 16 men. But they have the ability to set up cots and three additional guests will crowd in on Monday night.

“Basically, it’s just that time of year. People can’t sleep in their cars or they can’t sleep in the park--so they gravitate toward the homeless shelters,” Krug said.

Krug said Cedar House has been full for a month or so even when the weather was nicer. He’s probably turned about 130 to 140 people in November. Krug said he only goes over capacity, and pulls out temporary bedding, when the temperature dips as low as was expected Monday night.

No new homeless shelter has opened in Cedar Rapids in some time. But homeless families now have another option for getting back on their feet.

Family Promise of Linn County is a group of area congregations that will rely on volunteers to take turns in providing overnight space and meals for homeless families. There’s also a day center that will give people a place to go during the day. Organizers expect the first clients, admitted by a screening process, to begin using services next week. The number to call for information is 319-640-0339.

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