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The pandemic will make winter harder for homeless and needy

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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KWWL) ----- It's abnormally warm for November in Dubuque: 74 degrees was the high Friday.

The nice weather surely won't last through to December.

The staff at Dubuque Rescue Mission say they are anticipating this upcoming winter will be the hardest yet for some needy and homeless people, as problems for those in need are amplified by the pandemic.

Amy L. Gerhard, resident case manager at the Mission, says that providing shelter is an issue in any weather --- but the winter's busy-season there starts in fall.

"At the end of October when the rains start coming, that's when you really start to see the guys come in. To be wet and cold brings a whole different dynamic to it," Gerhard said.

Dubuque Rescue Mission normally houses 40 people. This year it will be closer to 20.

"I think COVID has affected everyone, no matter which tax bracket you're in," Gerhard said.

"But, imagine being in the world of COVID…the election… winter... without a cell phone or the internet. It's close to impossible, right? So it makes the guys um, sad. And depressed. And angry. And frustrated. How are they going to survive?"

"All the guys that are homeless here are somebody's uncle, cousin, grandchild, neighbor. They're still our Dubuque community."

Andre was using temporary housing at the Rescue Mission after being laid off from by a local commercial bakery.

"I lost my job due to the pandemic," Andre said.

A month and a half ago, he was offered a job at the Mission, helping residents prepare for the winter to come. KWWL asked how he's feeling about the pandemic.

"A little scary, but try not to think about it," Andre said. "What can you do?Other than practice social distancing, keep your hands clean, covering your face."

Staff say they are testing anyone who comes to the Dubuque Rescue Mission in need of help, and have a quarantine area set aside while people wait for results. So far, no positive cases of Covid-19 there.

Gerhard says they are looking for landlords that would be willing to house the needy, at the charity's expense. Interested parties are encouraged to contact the office.

AJ Capuano

Dubuque bureau reporter, KWWL

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