Advocates for the homeless held a summit in Des Moines Tuesday to begin work on a 10-year plan they hope will wipe out homelessness in Iowa’s capital city. Des Moines’ mayor, Frank Cownie, co-chairs the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Task Force on Hunger and Homelessness. Cownie says the city faces the challenge of finding permanent places to live for those who face the most difficulties.
Cownie says, "We want to go after the ones who are in most jeopardy, the ones who are most homeless, most mentally ill, most in need of services, who are chronically on that list let’s say for a year or more." He estimates that between 2,000 and 5,000 people are homeless in Des Moines, most of them near downtown. Cownie says it’s impossible to put a face on the homeless because they come from varied backgrounds.
"Sometimes they were employed and now they’re unemployed and we don’t know for what reason," Cownie says, "we hear stories of people who did so well in college and started a career, and have worked at a university or worked in a hospital, who have been a doctor, or a lawyer, or a professor, and all of a sudden things break down." Cownie calls the issue of homelessness one of the toughest problems cities face. But he says putting a ten-year plan in place to fight it is a good first step.