The director of one of Iowa’s largest homeless shelters says the economic downturn is forcing more families to seek help. Anthony Timm is executive director of Central Iowa Shelter and Services in Des Moines. He’s noticed more children with their parents taking advantage of free meals. In May of this year, 842 more free meals were served in Des Moines compared to May of 2008.

"Either mom or dad have lost a job or food stamps don’t go as far as they used to because food costs keep rising…we’ve got families in situations that just don’t have money to make ends meet," Timm said. "So, they’re looking for alternatives to feed their families as well as keep their housing."

A report released Thursday by the Department of Housing and Urban Development shows the number of homeless individuals in the U.S. remained steady between 2007 and 2008, but the number of families using a homeless shelter grew by 9%. Timm says his shelter only allows adults, but is constantly packed.

"We can house up to 116 a night and some nights our beds are full and we’ve got people that will have to sleep in a chair or seek shelter somewhere else because we can’t accommodate them," Timm said. Earlier this year, the Des Moines City Council approved plans for a new six-million dollar homeless shelter that will hold 210 beds.

See the report  here.