Dubuque homeless shelters looking for additional space as winter rolls in

Published: Oct. 19, 2020 at 11:31 PM CDT
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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) - Winters tend to be some of the busiest times for homeless shelters across eastern Iowa.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the shelters are only housing half as many people as they generally do. Rick Mihm, executive director of the Dubuque Rescue Mission, which is a homeless shelter for single men, said there is just not enough space. That will be an issue soon.

“A lot of people are not moving around," Mihm said. “If you have marginal housing or are homeless they are kind of staying put where they are because they know this reduced capacity is everywhere.”

Instead of about 32 people at the Rescue Mission, capacity is now at about 16. That means they need emergency shelters to try and help.

“I think we are going to have some emergency rapid response areas that can be, ‘Listen, for this week this is open and they check in now and this is open and there is a bed and then they go to the mission for their meals',” Mihm said.

The weather is just starting to get colder in Iowa and setting up an emergency shelter could take some time, but that is not the only problem. Many of the organizations that could help shelters in these situations, such as the East Central Intergovernmental Association, have also felt the impact of the pandemic.

“What we are able to do is pull people out of the shelter to then make more room for people coming in,” Amanda Dupont, regional homeless coordinator for ECIA, said.

Dupont’s job is to get people out of homeless shelters. The pandemic has made this mission much more difficult.

“It is a juggling act that we have a decent case load to serve as many people as we can, but then making sure we are doing everything we need to do and everyone gets the full attention they deserve," Dupont said.

Dupont mentioned they hope to use rapid re-housing funding to keep people out of homeless shelters permanently.

“What that means is, we pull somebody from homelessness and get them set up in their own unit, assist with deposit, utility deposit, and short-term rent and utility assistance,” Dupont said.

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