Shelter House: Housing bias kept people in Iowa City encampment

Smoke rises from a fire Wednesday in a homeless encampment near the Iowa River south of Highway 6 in Iowa City. (Nick Rohlman/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — Virtually the entire 13 individuals staying in a homeless encampment in Iowa Metropolis that caught fireplace Wednesday not too long ago have had housing functions rejected resulting from their supply of revenue — a housing voucher, in line with a Shelter Home, an Iowa Metropolis nonprofit.

The Iowa Metropolis Hearth Division was referred to as to the hearth behind 1401 S. Gilbert St. at 1:56 p.m. Wednesday, and was in a position to extinguish it in about quarter-hour, in line with a information launch from town. No accidents have been reported and there was no injury to close by buildings, however a few of the property of these dwelling on the encampment was broken.

The reason for the hearth nonetheless is below investigation.

Christine Hayes, the Shelter Home director of improvement, stated the group is working to assist exchange the provides of these affected. The fireplace was contained to a small space, however two individuals misplaced mainly all they owned.

“Dropping the whole lot once you’re in an encampment is a big hurdle, past the trauma of the hearth itself, to have to start out once more,” Hayes stated.

A number of group members have reached out to supply donations, together with tents, sleeping luggage, tarps and coats and heat clothes.

“Wednesday’s fireplace demonstrates the challenges confronted by people with out housing dwelling in our group. Over the previous a number of months, Shelter Home’s Road Outreach Specialist — a place created by way of a partnership with Metropolis of Iowa Metropolis — has labored with the people dwelling on this encampment to safe entry to housing and different assets,” an announcement from Iowa Metropolis police stated.

Road Outreach Specialist Sam Brooks has labored with the individuals dwelling on this encampment over the previous a number of months to safe housing vouchers that would assist the residents with the price of everlasting housing. Virtually the entire residents now have vouchers — however they nonetheless face issue discovering housing, in line with an announcement by the nonprofit.

Latest functions for housing have yielded 30 rejections among the many 13 individuals dwelling within the encampment. Six individuals who beforehand had lived within the encampment, nevertheless, have discovered housing, in line with Hayes.

Iowa City Fire Department crews respond to a fire Wednesday in a homeless encampment near the Iowa River south of Highway 6 in Iowa City. (Nick Rohlman/The Gazette)

Trina Thompson doesn’t reside within the encampment that caught fireplace, however was there Wednesday visiting with associates. She stated she’s been on the receiving finish of Shelter Home’s help packages and is now dwelling on the 501 Challenge, an condo constructing run by Shelter Home. Thompson stated she pays hire by way of a voucher that she was in a position to purchase with assist from Shelter Home.

“It’s sort of scary being on the market … however there’s rather a lot, a variety of assets,” Thompson stated.

Shelter Home, in its assertion, stated a part of the explanation individuals are having such a tough time discovering housing is due to a 2021 state legislation prohibiting cities from adopting native measures banning landlords from discriminating based mostly on somebody’s supply of revenue — that means property house owners are allowed to disclaim somebody housing if their revenue is thru a voucher program.

“The shortage of reasonably priced housing within the space for individuals dwelling in excessive poverty, mixed with Iowa’s legally permissible supply of revenue discrimination, make this tragic fireplace much more devastating: almost each single particular person dwelling within the encampment can be housed had their current rental functions been accepted,” the assertion stated.

Prior to now 12 months, Brooks has labored with 191 people dwelling exterior within the Iowa Metropolis space, in line with the assertion. Of these individuals, 85 now have housing.

“It’s so crucial that individuals perceive that homelessness is an issue of not having sufficient reasonably priced housing in any respect revenue ranges. … Even with a voucher obtainable that would pay for housing, it’s nonetheless such a problem for folk to get into housing. That scarcity yields actual human penalties which can be actually arduous to overstate,” Hayes stated.

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