CR Homeless Shelters Scramble

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) -- Friday was the last night the Mission of Hope's homeless shelters would operate. The Cedar Rapids charity was shuttering its overnight men's and women's facilities because of a lack of funding.

Without Mission of Hope, the community will be out 28 beds-- about 20% of Cedar Rapids' homeless shelter capacity.

The Mission of Hope budget requires about $40,000 a month in donations to keep operations going. The gifts in August totaled only $16,000. Just $8,000 had come so far this month. Executive Director Kim Reem said the total debt for Mission now exceeds $50,000.

The various shelters in Cedar Rapids all work closely together to fight homelessness. News that they were losing Mission of Hope sent them scrambling, Thursday morning, to place residents as the nights get colder and shelter becomes more important.

"At first you think it's kind of a bad joke," said Larissa Ruffin with the Catholic Worker House. "Then you're like, ok, wait."

That was Ruffin's reaction when she found out Mission of Hope was closing its shelters. Ruffin was spending Friday doing what she could make room in her shelter for displaced homeless-- giving up floor space seeing as the community will be out 28 beds-- about 20% of Cedar Rapids' homeless shelter capacity.

"I'm just worried about the number of folks we're going to have sleeping outside now compared to what we had at this time last year," Ruffin said.

Unfortunately, there likely won't be enough room for everyone. While the shelter and home placement experts at Waypoint Services in Cedar Rapids think they can use friends and family to help place women and children in beds-- men will be more difficult. Besides Mission of Hope, the only other men's shelter in town is Willis Dady's and it's full most nights. Plus, homeless sex offenders now have no place in town to turn.

"Anybody that is a sex offender cannot go to Willis Dady because they house children," said J'Nae Peterman, who directs housing services at Waypoint. "So, those individuals no longer have an option here in the community."

The closure also couldn't come at a worse time of year. Cedar Rapids shelters are getting ready for the cold months, hunting for a new seasonal overflow facility that provides shelter when temps get deadly overnight. The extra demand means finding that location and getting it running as soon as possible is imperative.

"We are just going to be in desperate need," said Ruffin. "We need to safely house everybody. Make sure they have a bed to sleep in."

Officials with Willis Dady said they have located a potential location for the overflow shelter. They're waiting for a green light from the city which is inspecting the southwest side property for safety. If possible-- they'd like to have it running before November 15th, which was the original goal before Mission of Hope announced the closures.