New Program Aims to Help Homeless in Cedar Rapids

By Jill Kasparie, Reporter

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By Jill Kasparie

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – It's a tall order, but groups in Cedar Rapids want to turn things around for homeless families in Cedar Rapids in just one year.

"The goal is to get these families from in crisis to stability and to do so in just 12 months,” said Executive Director of the Affordable Housing Network Joe Lock.

Four Oaks and the Affordable Housing Network are among many groups working to put a roof over the heads of those who need it.

The new program is called PUSH-CR, which stands for Partners United for Supportive Housing. Four Oaks was one of only five places across the country to receive a federal grant to provide apartments for 125 homeless families over the next three years.

After planning for a year, organizers are just about ready to start helping families, but the grant money doesn't cover furnishings for the apartment. So as you can see here, they've laid out a list of needs that includes everything from tables to toothbrushes.

It doesn't look very exciting now.

"Here we have 3,000 square feet of absolutely empty space,” Lock said.

But organizations behind PUSH-CR hope the empty shelves in a storage facility in downtown Cedar Rapids are soon filled to the brim.

"Literally these families may just have the clothes on their back and we need to fully furnish apartments,” Lock said.

Organizers are getting ready to announce the first four families they're going to help as part of PUSH-CR. Each one is a referral from the Department of Human Services. Dorice Ramsey with Four Oaks said the program is a new model of dealing with homelessness.

"What it does is it puts them in a house for a year, a house or an apartment – I should say -- for a full year,” Ramsey said. “And once we move that barrier of homelessness out the way then we can start working on those underlying issues, which might be substance abuse, which might be mental.”

Organizations working on the program say homelessness isn't readily visible in the community, but it exists. Ron Stewart isn't part of the PUSH-CR program, but he knows all about homelessness.

"We just take it day by day, for now,” Stewart said.

The single father of five is making ends meet by living at the Willis Dady Emergency Shelter.

“I think in the near future we should be able to have a place to call our own,” Stewart said.

Many are in his shoes. That's why organizers feel passionate about this new program. Four Oaks and several community partners aim to decrease homelessness and help people become productive citizens.

It all starts with filling the shelves with donations.

People can drop those off on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. just behind the Ecumenical Center at 601 2nd Avenue Southeast. Check out this website to see what’s needed: http://www.signupgenius.com/go/10C0E4EAEAC2CA2F85-donations

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