Shelters & Organizations Feel Pressure From Mother Nature

by Jill Kasparie, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – Many area homeless shelters and organizations providing warm meals have been running on high for weeks.

The bitter cold temperatures just keep coming. Several nights this winter, temperatures have dropped dangerously low.

"It's hard to keep the cold out on a day like this," said Mission of Hope Executive Director Martin Dwyer.

Cold air rushed into the Mission of Hope on 1st Ave. SE as people stepped inside.

"It's a nice place to get out of the cold," said Lee Harris.

Harris is currently homeless. He spends his day at the Mission of Hope and then goes to the Mission's shelter home in the evening.

"There's a lot of people over there at the mission, we sleep on the floor right now," Harris said.

Mission leaders have a policy never to turn anyone away on a night like Monday night. The organization also has an agreement with some churches if the shelter ever gets too full.

The bitter cold has been a harsh reality for many organizations, taxing resources.

"We have set records on just about everything. In terms of residents at the shelter, in terms of visitors during the day here," Dwyer said.

Some of the food pantry shelves are empty, so mission leaders are calling for donations. The executive director said there's really no way to plan for a winter like this.

"We are just making it up day by day, really," Dwyer said.

At Green Square Meals, the need for food is just as high.

"We are getting empty shelves. I haven't had empty shelves for six months," said Green Square Meals Kitchen Manager Jill Hemann.

The kitchen manager said she's seeing an interesting trend. More people are coming in on warmer days to take food in order to stay out of the dangerously cold temperatures.

"I'm hoping that everybody has a warm place to stay. I do have a few clients that I know are sleeping outside or in an abandoned building somewhere," Hemann said.

At the end of the day, they aren't letting Mother Nature get them down. They're thankful for the donations that keep coming in, and they're going to keep working to help those who need it most.
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