Winter is just around the corner and for those experiencing homelessness in Iowa, the change in weather can be life-threatening. As temperatures drop, people left with nowhere but the street to turn are at risk of developing exposure-related conditions such as hypothermia and frostbite—both can be permanently damaging to one’s health and can ultimately result in the loss of life. Increased shelter capacity is essential to accommodate the amplified need during winter months.
At Shelter House, preparations for the colder weather are well underway. Our local response is two-pronged. We are once again opening a satellite low-barrier Winter Emergency Shelter intended for people for whom homelessness has become a chronic condition. Sobriety and other requirements often experienced as barriers by the chronically homeless are removed. At the Southgate Avenue building we are also opening our Overflow Shelter—increasing our bed capacity at that location from 70 to 90 throughout the winter. Through these efforts combined we ensure that anyone experiencing homelessness in our community, no matter their circumstance, is kept out of the cold.
“I’ve lived in a tent before and used a candle to heat my tent. I wake up and there’s frost on the side of the tent from the cold night. Then you’ve got to get out of your tent the next day and all you’ve got to do is walk … just to stay warm.
I’m a veteran; I’ve got post-traumatic stress disorder. I’ve had friends freeze to death. My brother froze to death sleeping under a bridge If they’d had an emergency shelter maybe they wouldn’t have died.
Stories such as these are all too common. But together, with your monetary support, we can ensure that everyone in need has a warm, safe place to stay.
I stayed there (the Winter Shelter) every night last year—it makes a person feel better about themselves. It’s a place to get warm and get out of the cold. It makes your spirit better I guess, because in the winter it’s so cold, but when you go in there it kind of cheers you up a little bit.”—Former Winter Emergency Shelter Guest
When men and women share their stories of what it was like to go through Shelter House programs, they speak of the kindness and generosity they experienced not only from the staff but from members of the community who stopped by with donations or to volunteer. They speak of their gratitude for the basic necessities that were provided (a bed to sleep in, food to eat, clothing, bathing and laundry facilities) and the guidance, good counsel, and connections to health care, employment and housing they received while at Shelter House. With our expanded winter shelter capacity, individuals who would have otherwise been incarcerated or sleeping in encampments, parking ramps and hallways of apartment buildings will instead be ensured a safe, warm place to sleep. For the past three winters, and as a direct result of these services, vagrancy calls to the police have decreased precipitously as have emergency room usage and ambulance service calls; no one has died on our streets from exposure.
Our Out of the Cold Campaign goal is to raise $100,000 this winter to cover the range of programs and services that not only keeps those experiencing homelessness out of the winter cold but helps them to get back on their feet, rejoin the workforce, secure housing and connect back to the greater community. Will you join us in this effort by making a tax-deductible donation today so that everyone is kept out of the cold? Thank you in advance for your gift!
Thanks to the generosity of the Johnson County Board of Supervisors, a building which was previously used for county storage at 821 S. Clinton St. in Iowa City (the previous Carquest building) will be used as the site for the winter shelter! Additional thanks to the City of Iowa City, City of Coralville, and Iowa City Police Department for their continued, altruistic support in our efforts!