Dubuque shelters and housing programs feel need - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Dubuque shelters and housing programs feel need

The Dubuque Rescue Mission is filled past capacity The Dubuque Rescue Mission is filled past capacity

With cold weather, comes higher demand on local housing programs - but it's a need growing due to a chilly economic climate.

At the corner of 25th and Elm Streets in Dubuque, workers are tackling the interior of a brand new transition house.

The Dubuque Rescue Mission bought the plot of land in 2011 to eventually hold three houses and 11 men. It came with an old house and shed, and construction started in the fall for a brand new house.

"They put it up real quickly with the wonderful weather we've had," the mission's executive director Rick Mihm said Thursday, standing on the house's porch.

The Dubuque Rescue Mission provides temporary housing for homeless men, up to six months.
The transition homes are designed to house men for up to two years.

"These are the top tier of our men at the mission," Mihm explained. "These are the ones that have been really motivated and they just need an extra little boost and can succeed and get out on their own."

The construction on the house comes now, as the mission is filled to overflow capacity, Mihm said, with men on cots in the hallway and five others sleeping at a local church.

"And we still have men seeking shelter," Mihm said.

Michelle Mihalakis runs a number of programs in Dubuque for women and said it's a bad time of year for any shelter to hit capacity, "because now we're starting to see the snow, we're starting to see the colder weather."

Standing in the kitchen of the Manasseh House Thursday, where more than a dozen women can live indefinitely with a full-time staff member to help with any needs, Mihalakis said she's seen the economy drive up need.

"I think that there's an uptick in all of the housing projects around the city of Dubuque, especially supportive housing, where there are support services for the very needy and the homeless," she said. "I think as the economy continues to sputter, we're going to see a greater number of people wanting to get in."

For both women in Mihalakis' housing projects and men at the Dubuque Rescue Mission, jobs are increasingly hard to come by.

"Those men that were getting jobs, the most menial ones, at the car wash or fast food, even those are rare," Mihm said.

They said the demand for shelter could get worse before it gets better, but do they what they can with the programs they have.

Shelters, they said, can always use donations, from the financial kind to those of basic needs, such as toothpaste, coffee and warm wool socks.

The mission's new home is set to open in March. Mihm said he hopes renovation of the existing house can begin later in the year and construction of the third house, in 2013. The remaining land, he said, will be used as a community garden.

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