One of Iowa’s largest agencies serving the homeless is disputing a new report from a national group that finds the number of homeless Iowans fell by 66% in recent years. David Burrier, community relations officer for Hope Ministries, says the recession is bringing a lot of pain, lost jobs and home foreclosures.
"Our numbers are up and we’re expecting that to only increase in these uncertain economic times," Burrier says. "It’s just all over the board. What I can say is this — we have lots of hurting people in central Iowa." The Washington D.C.-based National Alliance to End Homelessness released a report Tuesday saying the Iowa homeless numbers dropped from more than 8,100 in 2005 to around 2,700 in 2007.
Burrier says he’s mystified by those numbers, as all evidence he’s seen indicates the situation is headed in the opposite direction. "We serve three meals a day, 365 days a year and in 2008, our average monthly number of meals served was 11-thousand-600," Burrier says. "That compares to 2007 where it was 10,000 a month." He says the Des Moines-based agency also measures the number of people it puts up overnight.
"This last year, we provided 47-hundred nights of shelter. Compare that to 2007 which had 41-hundred nights of shelter. Our numbers are up. We have people walking into our emergency shelter. We sponsor the largest emergency shelter for homeless men in the state of Iowa. We have folks marching in every day that have issues."
The report from the National Alliance put Iowa among the five states in the U.S. with the largest drops in homelessness during its two-year study, joining Idaho, Kansas, New Mexico and South Dakota. The largest increase, of 60-percent, was reported in Kentucky. Nationwide, the report said homelessness fell by 10% during the 2005-07 period.