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Shelter to stay open temporarily

BY ALYSSA GUZMAN | FEBRUARY 24, 2015 5:00 AM

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A temporary emergency homeless shelter located in the old Aldi building on South Gilbert Street has extended service for two more weeks.

The shelter — which was originally planned to be open from December to February — is now going to be open for an additional two weeks in March.

“We feel it’s necessary because of the success it had and the number of people who seem to be using it and, quite frankly, because of the unseasonable cold weather we’ve been having,” said Mark Setterh, the project co-organizer and resident services director at the Iowa City Shelter House.

Despite the popularity of the shelter and the frequent below-freezing temperatures, Setterh said, the shelter would certainly close on March 14.

On a typical night, he said, there are around 20 to 25 people using the shelter. On particularly cold nights, the could may host more than that.

“The mission is to get people out of the cold and prevent them from having dangerous issues that can come from exposure,” he said.

This is the first year the Shelter House has implemented a temporary emergency homeless shelter.

Though the shelter is going to close in a few weeks, there are plans for a more long-term solution that will probably be implemented sometime in 2016, Setterh said.

“There have been some talks about long-term permanent housing,” he said. “The Shelter House has taken the lead on this [project].”

Currently, Crissy Canganelli, the Shelter House executive director, said the shelter has enough funds from Iowa City, Coralville, Johnson County, United Way, and the Community Foundation of Johnson County to cover the extra two weeks the shelter will run.

Each day, the shelter opens at 5 p.m. and closes the following morning at 8 a.m.

Iowa City police Officer David Schwindt said that last year, many homeless people were coming to City Hall and sleeping on the lobby floor.

“It was just a tile floor,” Schwindt said. “It was a place for them to get out of the cold, but we wanted something more formal.”

Schwindt partnered with Setterh and Michael Langer, a member of One Ancient Hope Presbyterian Church, to ensure the temporary shelter would move forward.

Langer said his church worked with the police and Shelter House in identifying people who were on the streets who could not or would not access the Shelter House.

“Our goal was to make sure that regardless of what a person’s reasons for not being at the shelter were was that no one froze to death in Iowa City,” he said.

The police had previously told The Daily Iowan the shelter decreased vagrancy in Iowa City by 95 percent.


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