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Linn County considering Fillmore Center as cooling, water distribution center

The Fillmore Center, run by Linn County in Cedar Rapids on Monday, June 29th, 2020.
The Fillmore Center, run by Linn County in Cedar Rapids on Monday, June 29th, 2020.(Randy Dircks)
Published: Jun. 29, 2020 at 5:49 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, places where people can usually cool-off from the summer heat, like public libraries, are closed, presenting a challenge for people who are homeless or don’t have access to air conditioning.

The Fillmore Center is currently being used as an overflow shelter for Willis Dady Homeless Services, but that service runs out on June 30. Willis Dady is hoping to continue to use the space as a place for people to escape the heat. That’s especially relevant right now as temperatures could approach 90 degrees over the next 10 days.

On Monday, the Linn County Board of Supervisors discussed adding a cooling and water distribution center in the county’s Fillmore Building by Wednesday. Phoebe Trepp, the executive director of Willis Dady, said she’s starting to see an increase in homelessness in the Cedar Rapids area. She said, because of COVID-19 keeping public spaces closed like the library or area churches, clients are struggling to find safe places to cool off or hydrate.

As a winter overflow shelter, Linn County and the city of Cedar Rapids split the cost to keep the center open. The board is also concerned that using the Fillmore is a temporary fix and it’s not centrally located. Trepp said with such limited resources right now in the community, anything helps.

“There’s really limited options for refilling your water or even just getting out of the heat for a couple of hours,” Trepp said. “So, that is what we started talking about, is would the Fillmore work as a potential summer site? A day center where people could come in, sit down, use the bathroom, get water, just really basic activities.”

The Linn County Board of Supervisors will discuss and make a decision on the use of the Fillmore Center on Wednesday, July 1. They are waiting to hear what the costs would be to operate the center and are reaching out to groups like the Salvation Army or churches to see if they could help by opening up to give people relief.

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