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Business owners not happy about proposed temporary homeless shelter

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    Local news and information for Iowa City, Coralville, North Liberty, Solon, Tiffin, Swisher, Hills, Lone Tree, Oxford, University Heights, Shueyville and all of Johnson County and the surrounding area.More >>

A proposed plan to open a temporary homeless shelter has business owners upset.

City council in Iowa City approved funding to spend up to $20,000 on the project that will be in the old Aldi's building, on the city's south side.

The idea is to keep the homeless warm and safe this winter.

The city doesn't want a repeat of last year where many homeless people gathered in city hall to sleep and stay warm.

However, business owners say the shelter will be nothing short of an eyesore to their businesses and the neighborhood.

"I feel sorry for them. I'm not going to invite them into my home or my business," said Jim Rogers, owner Jim's Instrument Manufacturing. "Let some other neighborhood have some of the problems that we are gonna have or already have had."

Rogers says the idea could bring more criminal behavior to the area since more homeless people will be just blocks away from his shop.

He says there's already a homeless shelter in the area and police are already there 2-3 times a day.

But Jack Rockafellow disagrees, he's been homeless for nearly a year.

"I'd tell them not to be worried about their business, actually some of these homeless people will probably help out in making sure nobody was damaging their businesses," said Rockafellow.

He says he will be using the new temporary homeless shelter because his time at the Shelter House is ending.

"It's so hard to find a place with a criminal background, and landlords don't want to give you a chance," said Ollie Mitchell, also homeless. "It's bad for the homeless people, we have fake conversations with people just to get warm."

Paul Young, owner of Sweet Livin' Antiques says he's all for helping those in need but he's afraid the temporary shelter could be permanent.

"We know the term not in my backyard, but we've got a facility here like that in our backyard," said Young. "I think the city should spread some of these services and locations for these services."

There are about two facilities in the south part of the city that helps those in need, including the Shelter House and MECCA.

Christina Canganelli, executive director of the Shelter House says the new temporary facility will not have any major regulations.

Currently, the Shelter House is a dry facility and they have individuals take a breathalyzer test daily since their facility tries to help homeless people better their lives.

The temporary facility, expected to only be open January and February will focus solely on providing a safe and warm area for homeless.

"I'd like to know how many of these people actually live in Iowa City or are they transients coming on through," said Rogers.

The new temporary homeless facility is expected to have a little more than twenty beds.

"There are no rules or policies as far as expecting people to change their current situation, if you will," said Canganelli.

The temporary shelter is still only a proposed plan, and still needs more support before moving reaching the final stages.

Canganelli says the property owners of the potential temporary shelter are the ones who brought the idea up, to help the homeless.

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