CR Shelters in need of Overflow Area

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) — People in Cedar Rapids, who are homeless, are going to face a life-threatening situation in the coming weeks. As temperature gets colder, there may not be enough places for them to seek shelter.

The city's homeless shelters say they're in urgent need of an overflow space for the cold months.

In the last three years, the shelters have pooled resources to create a place that gives hundreds of people a warm location to stay at night.    

This year, the group needs it more than ever. In late September, budget problems forced the Mission of Hope to close its two shelters, reducing the overall number of permanent beds in town.      

Then, in the last few weeks, the space the other shelters were hoping to use for an overflow facility failed to get city approval. So, organizers are back to square one as a chilly November nears.

"As we get further and further into the cold, it definitely weighs on all of us more heavily,” said Phoebe Trepp, who runs the Willis Dady Emergency Shelter and helps coordinate the annual effort to create an overflow space.

On Tuesday, Trepp put out an emergency call to help find a new overflow location. The previous spots, which were donated on a temporary basis, have either become too complicated to use or are no longer available. 

“You know, a month from now, I'll really be freaking out," Trepp said.

Her concern comes as permanent shelters are at capacity each night. Places like the Catholic Worker House are fitting as many people in as possible. Some are sleeping on the floors.

Even so, the community’s shelters estimate 30 to 40 people are still spending nights outside. The overflow spot would help almost immediately, giving those people a place to stay as soon as it was ready. 

The facility gets a lot of use annually. It served 470 unduplicated individuals between mid-November and March of last season. Without it, Willis Dady expects to see more of what they already do this time of year. 

"We serve people all the time who have had frost bite or other damage to their bodies, permanently, because they slept outside when it was too cold,” Trepp said. 

The silver lining-- Trepp believed the community's shelters have identified at least two spots that could work as an overflow location. Unfortunately, they both lack the same feature that helped kill the last option, a sprinkler system. Trepp gave the options a 50% chance of working. 

If you know of a space that could work, contact the Willis Dady Emergency Shelter. They're coordinating the effort to find the overflow shelter. The number, ‪319-362-7555.‬