Dubuque Rescue Mission sees increase for homeless in need of shelter

By  | 

DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- Over the last two months, a homeless shelter in Dubuque has had an increase in the number of people who need a place to stay.

The Dubuque Rescue Mission saw nearly 2,000 people stay at the facility in November, the most in recent years.

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, homeless populations in Iowa have dropped by over 10 percent from last year.

Workers at the Dubuque Rescue Mission say their recent experience shows otherwise.

Over the last three to four years, their program, which has a strict policy to never turn anyone away, has seen a significant overflow in the late fall and winter months.

Cots are in hallways, laundry rooms, and even the chapel.

The Dubuque Rescue Mission organizers say the data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development might not match what is being seen firsthand.

"Whoever's sending out that data I'd have them come and start walking around and visiting some of the shelter and see if what they have on numbers match what they're seeing physically with their own eyes," Executive Director at the Dubuque Rescue Mission Rick Mihm said.

Mihm said normally when they are at capacity, they stay in contact with the other shelters in the area to determine if there is another place available. He said all of the nearby shelters have also been full.

With the noticeable increase in demand and the winter weather only beginning, the Dubuque Rescue Mission has been weighing options to come up with solutions.

Normally the Rescue Mission has 45 beds available per night, which gives them a capacity of 1,350 "bed nights" per month.

When the demand increases in winter, especially at the rate it has the last three to four years, the Rescue Mission puts cots wherever there is space, sometimes using chairs as beds.

With limited funds and space, Mihm said the best solution would be for the city and agencies to come together on affordable housing options.

"We just don't have enough units of safe, clean, affordable housing that these men can transition into," Mihm said. "When you're making $8 or $8.50 an hour, even working full-time, it's just not able to cut that."

Mihm stressed the issue is not from a lack of donations or volunteers, but rather the space they have been utilizing.

He said he understood the current building with the pipes and other utilities was not meant to function at a rate the Dubuque Rescue Mission has been functioning at.

Mihm said if the city and agencies cannot come to an affordable housing solution, he and others involved might be forced to look at options for expanding.

The Rescue Mission generally reaches capacity or comes very close to meeting that point in January and February, because of the colder temperatures and winter weather.

But when putting the situation in perspective, Mihm said Dubuque, as compared to the rest of the state, is truly struggling.

Read the original version of this article at www.kcrg.com.