Controversial homeless shelter seeing numbers rise - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Controversial homeless shelter seeing numbers rise

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IOWA CITY (KWWL) - It's been a week since the temporary homeless shelter at the old Aldi's grocery story opened it doors on Iowa City's southeast side.

"We have 20-25 cots set up on the floor with blankets and really it's a very warm facility," said Shelter House residence services director, Mark Sertterh.

Sertterh says the Shelter House staff also runs the new temporary homeless shelter.

He says the facility is not anything fancy and it's not supposed to be.

"We just wanted people to have a place to go during the overnight, said Sertterh. "The number was seven that first night."

However, since then he says that number has tripled, peaking at 23.

The doors opened at the homeless shelter January 5 and Sertterh says it was perfect timing because it was during the cold weather stretch.

"People are showing up and definitely using it," said Sertterh.

Back in December, after the Iowa City Council voted to approve funding to spend up to $20,000 on this homeless shelter project, it caused quite a stir from business owners.

"You know the term not in my backyard, well we already have a facility like that in our backyard," said Paul Young, owner of Sweet Livin' Antiques last month.

The shelter is open daily from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m., until the end of February and Monday night people began filling the facility.

Staff says the facility is designed to be useful ranter than attractive and mostly serves people who can't stay at the Shelter House because of eviction or intoxication.

The temporary facility allows people to be intoxicated, but they have to turn in their alcohol before using the facility.

"The best thing we have done was partner with the Iowa City Police Department," said Sertterh. "They come in and doing frequent visits in there in the evening in the overnight."
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