Kelly’s Story

When I showed up at the Winter Shelter, I was terrified to go inside. I had been living with someone, and was relying on them for transportation, but after some bad conflict they left me in Iowa City without a way home. I realized I had no place to go. It was snowing, it was dark, and it was cold…

This wasn’t the first time I had been homeless—the last time was in 2009 after my place caught fire. But this time was different, because it was cold outside and I didn’t have many options or any support in the area.

I stayed at the Winter Emergency Shelter for 5 weeks. Everyone there was able to get blankets, stay warm, be comfortable and get out of the bad weather and the cold. The workers would ask about our plans for after the Winter Emergency Shelter closed: “Where will you go? What kinds of needs do you have?”

I was able to start working and was excited to have a job, but as it came closer to the time for the Winter Emergency Shelter to close I didn’t have any plans for housing.

I ended up transitioning to Shelter House. I stayed on the floor in overflow downstairs in the dining room because they were so full. I had a job, and was encouraged by Shelter House staff to apply for the Rapid Rehousing program so that I could get some help to find and pay for housing.

They had a whole list of landlords, they helped me with my paperwork, and they really encouraged me to think about my future and stop looking at the past to help me move on with my life and protect myself. They were able to provide clothes for my job, bus tickets, showers, hot meals—basic needs that a lot of people don’t think about. They helped me rebuild my life so I wouldn’t be homeless when it came winter-time again.

A week after I applied to the program, I got an apartment. I had no idea it would happen that fast, but I was so excited. I went all over town showing off my apartment keys – “Jingle jingle jingle, look what I got! I got my own place!” It was so great.

I realized that you just have to suck up your pride and ask for the help. Shelter House is there to help people get out of those bad situations, and move on with their lives and become functioning people.

I think my experience shows that I’m a strong person. I had to go through a while of staying in a shelter, but now look where I am—I have a job and a home. I was able to do something with the bad and turn it into something good…and I’m still a happy person.