On Christmas day 2017, my husband and I were volunteering at our church, where every year our church makes hundreds of free meals for either serving those that come in, or delivering meals to the community. Some that came in were homeless people, and a specific table stayed for quite a while. While we were making the rounds from table to table, we discovered that this particular table of homeless people’s ride never came back to get them to return them to their shelter, so my husband and I offered to take them back to their shelter.
When we got to the shelter, my husband and I, and the three homeless people in our car discovered a woman laying down and nearly passed out in the shelter parking lot. The laying-down woman was wearing clothes and a coat, but only socks-no shoes, no hat, and no gloves. It was 7 degrees outside. The three people ran to her, helped her to her feet, quickly gave her several blankets that we had donated and other blankets they had all around her body, and carefully grabbed each arm and walked her to an outside lawn chair – just outside the door to the shelter.
This rescued woman, along with the three people we dropped off were not going to get warm, as we discovered in talking to them some more that this shelter is a winter ‘overflow shelter’, and that is was not going to open their doors until 8:00pm. It was only 3:00pm, and they may have had to all stay outside for five hours. Today (Christmas day) was a particular hard day to find warmth, as most businesses were closed, and city buildings and public busing were closed as well. A convenience store across the street was open, and a restaurant was open, but that was about it. They had told us the restaurant lets them in as long as they are a paying customer, and so we went to the convenience store and got some cash for them so they could go to the restaurant and buy some coffee and food so they could keep warm until the shelter opened.
Upon further investigation the next morning when businesses were open and we were able to make some calls, we discovered that this overflow shelter, located at 505 33rd Ave SW in Cedar Rapids, has been donated for the winter season by a very gracious local businessman who wishes to remain anonymous. We talked to a person from Willis Dady Homeless Shelter, one of 15 agencies involved in the Linn County Continuum of Care.
The Willis Dady representative we talked to shared that the overflow homeless shelter is open at night, seven nights a week. The homeless are covered for the most part during weekdays with public transportation and open public buildings. But because of budget restraints, weekends, and especially Sundays and holidays, they do not have the budget to open up this overflow shelter during the day where there are significantly less options to stay warm.
The Willis Dady representative, Phoebe Trepp, shared with us that if we could raise money, they would be able to have fund staff for the winter season to support Sunday days and holidays through March 15. $3640 would fund one staff member (who would get then get help from volunteer(s)), or $7280 would fund two staff members (who would then get help from additional volunteer(s)). Trepp shared that if more money is raised than needed to support this overflow shelter during the cold season, any leftover money would go to the Willis Dady general fund.
Please, donate as much as you can as soon as you can so we can give Willis Dady Homeless Services the funds needed to have this winter overflow shelter staffed on Sunday days so these homeless people don’t have to stay outside in the cold!
**This website sells tickets for events. Because our only option on our website currently is to sell “tickets”, we are selling “tickets” for $25.00 each. Get as many “tickets” as you want, which will indicate in $25 increments how much you are donating to this cause. We will then transfer 100% of your donation to Willis Dady Homeless Services. We however are not set up to give you a tax write-off receipt. If you need a tax write-off receipt, please instead donate to the GoFundMe page we have also set up HERE.
Note that GoFundMe takes a little off the top of each donation (2.9% + .30 cents off each donation) for their purposes. We will however donate 100% of what you donate on this website to Willis Dady.
In addition for needed funds for Willis Dady staff people to work the shelter for more hours, Trepp explained that specific gift cards donated to the homeless would be good to have so they can hang out at area businesses around this particular 33rd Ave overflow shelter, until the shelter opens for the night. Gift cards to Casey’s, Burger King, Taco Bell, Wendy’s, McDonald’s, and Perkins would be wonderful as well.
Mail gift cards to:
Willis Dady Homeless Services
1247 4th Ave SE
Cedar Rapids, IA 52403
Please indicate “33rd Ave overflow shelter” inside the envelope.
Thank you for helping to support our Cedar Rapids homeless!