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Iowa City helps homeless shelter as beds fill up during coronavirus pandemic

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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KWWL) - The City of Iowa City is paying to house people experiencing homelessness in hotel rooms, as local shelters try to stay open while social distancing to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

"It's immediately provided relief for my staff and the clients that remain at the shelter," Crissy Canganelli said, executive director at Shelter House in Iowa City.

Canganelli says last Monday, the shelter was over capacity at 87 people. They're now down to 55 as the city has paid to relocate those who were showing symptoms of illness, and the staff have aggressively worked to find more permanent housing solutions for people experiencing homelessness.

"We really found that people were responsive to that message and that need," Canganelli said. Shelter House places over 450 people into permanent housing every year through a network of landlords and property owners.

Iowa City declared a Civil Emergency last Wednesday, in part allowing the city to move emergency funds without approval. City Manager Geoff Fruin says the declaration allowed them to relocate a handful of people from Shelter House.

"There's a team working on emergency housing and that team identified a plan to relieve some of the pressure that was happening at shelter house," Fruin said.

The city is only paying for this for one month, at which point they and Shelter House will revisit the situation.

Shelter House says anyone can help their mission by donating cleaning supplies like disinfectant wipes, while landlords and property managers should reach out if they have a unit available for overflow housing. Canganelli says the shelter can financially support its clients with their down payment and possibly more.

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Travis Breese

Reporter, Iowa City

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