As cold weather sets in, Dubuque homeless shelter at capacity goes to city for overflow shelter

The Dubuque Rescue Mission reduced its capacity from 32 to 18 because of the pandemic.
The Dubuque Rescue Mission reduced its capacity from 32 to 18 because of the pandemic.
Published: Nov. 4, 2021 at 4:38 AM CDT
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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) - Rick Mihm with the Dubuque Rescue Mission said they get calls every day asking for shelter; some of them from places like Cedar Rapids, Davenport, or even Milwaukee. He mentioned they have to turn most of them down.

“We just tell them, ‘Listen, we do not have space currently for our local people, so you are going to have more resources where you are there,’” he added.

The Rescue Mission, a temporary housing shelter for homeless men, has reduced its capacity from 32 to 18 because of the pandemic. Mihm said sometimes they will even let people crash on the hallways. He mentioned, however, with colder weather setting in, they worry more than usual about turning people away.

“When it was warmer it was less concern, we just told them to check back again,” he explained. “But when it drops down like it did last night in the 20s, and then it will continue to get colder, then we cannot say, ‘Well, you will have to check back.’”

But a TV9 report on a new overflow shelter in Linn County sparked the conversation at the Rescue Mission on whether a similar shelter was needed in Dubuque County, so Mihm said he contacted assistant city manager Cori Burbach, who then contacted the city’s housing director, Alexis Steger.

Steger told TV9 setting up an overflow shelter is no easy task.

“We are not like Cedar Rapids that has a large building that is available that can house people,” she said. “To house people you need to have showers, bathrooms and many of our buildings are not outfitted for that purpose.”

She added, however, the city is in conversations with local non-profit groups and the public health department to find ways to address the situation.

“The Public Health Department was able to go in and help the Theresa Shelter get up to 75 percent instead of, I mean, obviously with COVID they cannot get up to 100 percent, but we are working on those as well: can we get capacity up where we have shelters already and just put protections in place to get them back up on capacity,” she explained.

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