Drugs, alcohol and mental illness are leading factors in what makes Iowa City’s homeless issue so visible to the public, said Ryan Turner, a former homeless resident still living in Iowa City.
The city’s only homeless shelter, Shelter House, does not allow people who have been abusing substances to stay at the facility, which is one reason why many people choose to live on the streets.
“There are those who have drug and alcohol issues that don’t really want to go to Shelter House,” said Tom Markus, city manager.
The 70-bed Shelter House, 429 Southgate Ave., typically runs at capacity. Guests often are turned away or placed on a waiting list because the facility cannot handle the demand, executive director Crissy Canganelli said.
Johnson County ranks fifth out of Iowa’s six largest counties in the percentage of residents that are homeless, according to a recent study provided by the city.
Transients can be found setting up camp all throughout the city on some of the seasons coldest nights. In late January, a KCRG/Gazette investigation found people spending the night at the downtown post office, on a bench on the ped mall and inside a local gas station. There also was evidence of a homeless camp underneath the Summit Street bridge, about a mile from downtown.
Do you think more should be done to help Eastern Iowa’s homeless residents?