Many Iowans are spending this Thanksgiving holiday in a homeless shelter. Homelessness in Iowa is still rising, even after reaching record highs last year.
Some counties are reporting high numbers of displaced children. Ann Hearn is the deputy director of community planning in Linn County. She says more than half of the people in Cedar Rapids area shelters are kids. “A lot of times when people think about the homeless, they don’t often think of children being homeless,” Hearn said. “In our local homeless population, we see a large number of families, particularly single female head of household families, that are coming into the shelters and other programs seeking assistance.” Linn County has had a particularly tough couple of years – the 2008 flood, the economic downturn, and now, local homeless shelters are reporting some of the largest increases in homelessness in the state.
Across the state, homelessness is up 20% from this time last year. At least one expert says this latest rise may actually mean more homeless individuals are getting help. That’s because this year’s increase in state and federal funding for homelessness programs may mean those services are finally getting to more people. Ehren Stover-Wright is a lead researcher with the Iowa Institute for Community Alliances. “Now, with all of this spending, those people who would become homeless but might not ever hit the system are able to turn to agencies and receive help, case management and assistance to make their lives stable again and to get back on track,” Stover-Wright said.
Homelessness fluctuates across the state. Polk County is reporting a 4% drop thus far this year, while Linn County is reporting a 24% increase in services at local shelters.