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July 11, 2018

Laura Castro
Tabitha Campbell
Natasha Gaugh
Kaitlin McClain
Shelby Selvy

Homelessness. To many this is just a word, something that “could never happen to me,”

but to others it is a daily reality. For those of us who have a roof over our head, it may be hard

to believe that there are people struggling to have shelter in our world today. Unfortunately,

our world isn’t perfect and there are many people who face circumstances that lead them to be

homeless. Some of these circumstances include lack of affordable housing, unemployment,

poverty, mental illness, and substance abuse. This discussion will be an overview of homeless in

the United States and Iowa, and the lack of shelters in Southeast Iowa.

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, there are

approximately 554,000 homeless people in the United States. Of that amount, 193,000 were

living on the streets with no access to shelters. Hawaii is shown to be one of the states with the

highest amount of homeless people in the United States with 51 people out of 10,000 being

homeless. Iowa is actually one of the lowest ranking states with only 9 out of every 10,000

people being homeless, which is a huge difference from states like Hawaii and California. Iowa

also had 140 unaccompanied children, which is the lowest of any of the states.
With regard to homeless shelters in the US, there are local planning bodies responsible

for coordinating the full range of services for the homeless in a geographic area. These are

called Continuums of Care (CoC). There are a total of 401 CoC’s in the US, divided as follows:

 Major city, which make up around 48 (with a few that were duplicated). Around

50% of the homeless people in the US stay at these shelters

 Smaller city, county, and regional are the most numerous with 311 across the


 Balance of state and statewide only account for 40 of the CoC total (Hud

exchange, 2016)

The number of homeless people in Southeast Iowa is hard to determine since there are

no homeless shelters in the region according to Janice Bailey, administrator for Whatsoever You

Do. In cities such as Ottumwa, IA there does not seem to be enough donations to substantiate a

homeless shelter. Instead, they allow the homeless to stay in the lobby of the police

department and try to relocate them to a bigger city via bus transportation in order for them to

access a homeless shelter.

Although Iowa’s homeless are on the low end of the spectrum, the number of homeless

individuals is nonetheless a growing dilemma. Aside from the aid of the police department,

there are several volunteer based agencies that offer assistance to those in need. One such

organization is the Hope Ministries of Iowa, which provides services such as food, clothing, and

temporary shelter to those in need. This organization offers shelter to the resident for 60 days.

While aids such as these are a great attribute and service for those in need, they are not a
complete resolution for the homeless in the community. There is a great need for more low

income living in SE Iowa and if there were more affordable options individuals with low or no

income the occurrence of homelessness could be drastically reduced.

As you can see, even though Iowa has a low occurrence of homeless individuals, the

disparity still exists. Ideally, there would be a more permanent option in place for those who

are homeless instead of being shipped off to a different city to remain homeless. It is difficult to

bring a project like that to completion, and the few services that are provided are indeed

helpful, but we believe that if more volunteers came together something more stable could be

done. Those in need could have a place to stay, access to mental health services, substance

abuse counseling, and job skills training or job placement to help them re enter society as

productive members.