Iowa City Shelter wins approval, still faces challenges - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowa City Shelter wins approval, still faces challenges

Iowa City (KWWL) -- A controversial plan for a homeless shelter in iowa city won approval from the City's Planning Commission. That means it can get building permits but one group may sue to stop that from ever happening.

The fight to build a proposed 70-bed shelter house in addition to the existing one in Iowa City goes back to 2004.

"In order to build the shelter on land, we were required to seek a special exception from the City of Iowa City," said Crissy Canganelli, Director of the Iowa City Shelter House.

Canganelli says that exception was granted, but appealed by residents of the neighboring Hilltop Mobile Home Park. It went to the Iowa Supreme Court, which upheld the City's exception to build the facility. But last month, Isabella Vine and other Hilltop Park residents filed a petition, saying they're still not comfortable with the site plan.

"We have so many questions and concerns that we need answers to," said Vine.

The petition listed those concerns, including inadequate parking space at the proposed shelter and a dispute over the property line between it and the mobile home park. But above all, Vine is worried about safety. She cited her experience working for Goodwill, where she worked with homeless people with criminal backgrounds.

"A lot of my neighbors are elderly and handicapped," said Vine.

She also pointed out a daycare center just across the street from the proposed building site.

"it's just unsafe. very unsafe," she said.

Canganelli says she's working to address those concerns, but worries that more delays could mean added stress on local churches, which act as overflow shelters during winter.

"We want to be able to tell the volunteers in the faith communities that this is the last winter we'll need to rely on them," said Canganelli.

She hopes to break ground for the new shelter next spring, with the intention of it being completed by next winter.

The shelter house still has a ways to go in terms of funding. $1.5 million has been committed to the full $3.5 million cost.

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