Homelessness in Northern Iowa goes unseen | KAALTV.com

Homelessness in Northern Iowa goes unseen

Rachel Mills
Updated: January 22, 2021 07:12 PM
Created: January 22, 2021 05:17 PM

(ABC 6 News) - People without a place to live are everywhere, And no community is untouched by homelessness.

"Most of us really are only a paycheck or two away from being where they are if you think about it," Jeannie Churchill, Executive Director of Northern Lights Alliance for the Homeless said. 

Right now, there is one homeless shelter between Rochester and Des Moines. That's one shelter for nine counties in Northern Iowa. 

There are about 500 people a year who rely on the Northern Lights Alliance for its homeless shelters, but there's an invisible homeless problem, too. 

"Our clients are typically not coming to us from being that person on the street. They have had some life event that's spun their life out of control. Its very typical for a family to fall apart and part of that family to end up homeless, or there's domestic violence. Or someone has lost their job," Churchill said. 

You may have heard of couch surfing, or when someone stays with friends or family but doesn't have permanent housing. This is also considered a form of homelessness. Its less visible, but still there. 

"We do see quite a few people who are just staying with one family or friend to another. We do have people that are staying in their car in a parking lot or their friends driveway," Tracy Hedegard-Stump, social services director of the Salvation Army in Mason City, Iowa. 

With so few resources in Northern Iowa, the Northern Lights shelters have to be sure they have the means to help. They provide temporary housing, rent help, and case management designed for each individual. 

The Salvation Army in Mason City also helps with clothing vouchers and household supplies. Tracy says they often refer people in need to the shelter to get back on their feet.

"When they come in our doors, they're usually at the point where they're like I'm tired of living this lifestyle, of sleeping on different people's couches. They're looking for a more permanent solution," Hedegard-Stump said. 

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