Many Iowans are spending this Christmas at home with family, but an estimated 3,000 people in the state are homeless on this holiday.
Ken Dohmen with Central Iowa Shelter and Services says homeless shelters do more than provide people with a place to sleep. Dohmen says his agency has a goal of helping every client move out of the shelter within 90 days.
“In years past, we didn’t concern ourselves too much with that,” Dohmen said. “But the last few years that’s been our goal…to get people on their feet and get them out of there, whether it’s a job or low rent housing. We don’t want them to keep coming back. That’s what we’re striving to eliminate – chronic homelessness in our shelter.”
The recession has forced most local governments to trim spending. Dohmen says cities and counties are cutting budgets of homeless shelters at a time when the demand for the shelters’ services are on the rise. He believes this would be a good time for governments to invest in those shelters.
“I do believe that because you’re investing in lives and (the homeless) are eventually going to come back and they’re going to be paying taxes and putting money back into the system,” Dohmen said. “If we eliminate (services) and make it impossible for them to work, that’s not going to happen.”
Central Iowa Shelter and Services was created by eight area churches in 1992 after five homeless people froze death in Des Moines in the early 90s.