Council approves funding for temporary shelter


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Chronically homeless individuals in Iowa City may now have a place to sleep this winter.

The Iowa City City Council on Tuesday voted 7-0 to allow the City Manager’s Office to spend up to $20,000 on a temporary homeless shelter in Iowa City.

“This is the right thing to do, period,” Mayor Matt Hayek said during the meeting.

The shelter would provide a place for 20 to 25 people on average from 5 p.m. until 8 a.m. the next day, said Crissy Canganelli, the executive director of Shelter House.

The new shelter would be located at the former location of Aldi’s, 1534 S. Gilbert St.

The shelter, according to the emergency-funding request submitted to the city by Canganelli, will act as an emergency shelter for individuals who are homeless or chronically homeless.

Canganelli made it clear that this would be a pilot program that would not be extended but would only be for the winter months.

The proposed cash-expense budget for the temporary shelter is around $68,000 but will be amended, as the shelter will only be open for January and February instead of three months.

To cover the rest of the expenses, requests have been sent to the Johnson County Board of Supervisors, the city of Coralville, the city of North Liberty, and United Way. The community foundation of Johnson County has committed $5,000 to the project.

Now that the council has approved the funding, Canganelli said, it might get the ball rolling on more funding.

“I think it will certainly help them in their decision-making process that this has committed, and we have a significant partner in this now,” Canganelli said.

Hayek said it’s a positive step that Iowa City isn’t the only entity being asked for money.

“Far too often, Iowa City is seen as the only one capable of funding like this,” he said. “Homelessness and housing are the product of and have an impact on the broader area.”

The request states the shelter would be supervised at all times by two employees. There would be 40 sets of sleeping mats and bedding.

A petition was signed by 37 members of the business community around the area of the shelter because of concerns that property values would decrease and loitering would increase.

But, councilors said that housing the chronically homeless is important.

“This is not hard to vote for,” Councilor Terry Dickens said during the meeting.  “[The funding is] to target a specific population for only a few months.”

Councilor Kingsley Botchway II said he would like to see business owners collaborate more with projects like this.

“For those business owners that are here, this is an awesome opportunity to open up dialogue with the people working with the homeless,” he said during the meeting.

Assistant City Manager Geoff Fruin said those who would sleep in City Hall or the police lobby prompted the shelter plans because there was not proper security or oversight of those people.

“What led us to this point is months of talk with the Local Homeless Collaboration Board,” he said. “This isn’t a long-term solution in their minds, but this is the best short-term solution that group developed.”

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