Overnight shelters set up for people displaced by storm

Published: Aug. 14, 2020 at 11:34 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - On Friday, two overnight shelters in Linn County opened for people who were left without a home because of Monday’s storm.

The Palo Community Center housed a few people as well as the Cedar Rapids Veterans Memorial in the downtown area. These shelters were put in place initially because of storms predicted overnight. They were places where people can come get out of the heat, charge their phone, and feel safe.

“There’s no power and so everybody still needs to be able to communicate,” said Donnie Harding of Marion. “It was good to have a place like this to charge your phones and have a place that feels safe.”

Sleeping at the Palo Community Center and eating in City Hall might not look like much, but for Donnie Harding and many others, it’s better than sleeping in badly damaged property.

“It’s really hot and humid,” he said. “Nobody has power or anything. It’s been a few days to where the carpet is probably moldy and we have one lady whose kitchen fell through onto a lower apartment.”

Looking over at Harding’s complex you can see plaster all over the parking lot and covered the cars of those who live there. There is severe roof damage and windows blown out. While he is thankful for a place to sleep, this response from the Red Cross is different than it might look under other circumstances.

“We do have to keep in mind that there’s a COVID-19 environment,” said American Red Cross Iowa/Nebraska Communications Director Emily Holley. “We need to keep people safe on multiple levels right.”

She said they have been able to help more than 100 people before the shelters opened by putting them in hotels. The Palo site can accommodate 150 people. Cedar Rapids wasn’t yet sure how many they can serve at the Veterans Memorial Building.

“We intend to meet those short-term needs and, hopefully, other organizations and governmental responses will respond in kind,” she said. “We are here for people and we’re going to continue to serve as long as they need us.”

Harding doesn’t know what’s next for him. He’s just keeping a positive attitude and trying to help his neighbors and the Red Cross while he figures that out.

“You can do something; don’t stand around,” Harding said. “Pick up a tree pick, up a piece of wood on the ground, there’s a lot of glass so be careful, but be nice to your neighbor and help if you can.”

People are being asked not to bring pets to the facilities.

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