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Iowa homeless shelter sees high demand for beds

December 17, 2017

DUBUQUE, Iowa (AP) — A homeless shelter in eastern Iowa is facing a growing demand for beds, despite federal figures showing a drop in homeless populations statewide and in some nearby states.

Dubuque Rescue Mission is overwhelmed by the demand this year that it has set up beds in hallways and a laundry room, the Dubuque Telegraph Herald reported . Demand reached its highest point of the past three years in November, when the number of “bed nights” reached 1,980.

“Right now, we have every bed taken,” said Rick Mihm, the mission’s executive director. “We have a bed in the stairway.”

That comes even as U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development data released this month show that homeless populations have dropped significantly in Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois compared with last year.

The department’s estimates put Iowa’s homeless population at 2,756 in 2017, more than 10 percent lower than last year. Compared with the previous year, Wisconsin’s homeless population declined by more than 11 percent and Illinois’ homeless population declined by nearly 7 percent.

Hannah Campbell Gustafson directs Family Promise of Grant County, Wisconsin, an organization that provides case management and shelter to homeless families.

“The statistics don’t necessarily capture everyone who is struggling,” Campbell Gustafson said. “There are so many people who are doubling or tripling up in a home, or couch-surfing to find a place to stay. Homelessness doesn’t just mean that someone is sleeping outside in the cold.”

Mihm said the rising demand is a result of chronic mental health and substance abuse issues, as well as difficulty in making ends meet.

“When you are making $8 an hour, it can be very difficult to pay for rent and utilities,” Mihm said. “An unexpected car repair bill or an unexpected medical bill or anything like that can result in someone being homeless.”

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Information from: Telegraph Herald, http://www.thonline.com

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