Iowa City Shelter House turning to hotels for more space during COVID-19

By  | 

IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) -- Social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic is proving to be a challenge from some eastern Iowa homeless shelters.

The Shelter House in Iowa City s running out of room for homeless residents while practicing social distancing on March 26, 2020. (MARLON HALL//KCRG)

The Shelter House in Iowa City is limiting the number of people it houses in its shelter. Usually, around 90 people stay in the shelter overnight, but with concerns over COVID-19, the shelter is limiting the number of people by at least half.

“We are spreading people out across different beds, sleeping people head to toe,” Crissy Canganelli, Executive Director of the Shelter House said.

Canganelli said managing the shelter during a pandemic is a unique situation.

“We’ve really had to look at this building differently and better understand our ability to meet the needs of the people who are coming through our doors to ensure a safe environment as best we can,” Canganelli said.

The Shelter turned to Iowa City for more help housing people. Affordable housing and emergency housing funds were released to fund up to 15 hotel rooms for 30 nights to help with overflow at the shelter. The city is still figuring out what to do once those 30 days are up.

“If this goes on for a long time and we need more funds, we’ll have to see what’s available,” Tracy Hightshoe, Neighborhood & Development Services Director with the City of Iowa City. “We will see what are federal and state partners do and what money we get in, what FEMA is willing to reimburse, those will all come in time, but we are not sure yet will happen.”

Canganelli said demand for shelter services is high now, but she’s also concerned about what’s to come with more people currently out of work.

“Even when we are at 70 (people) in ordinary times, we are turning away people because we are at capacity, so we are going to have that which we know is going to be an unmet demand in addition to loss of income for people living that have been living paycheck to paycheck,” Canganelli said.

The Shelter is also asking any landlords and property managers with vacancies for help placing residents. Canganelli said they have access to the security deposit and rent assistance.