Shelter House opens homeless apartment building

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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KWWL) — The first-of-its-kind apartment building in Iowa is ready. It’s an apartment building where all of the tenants will have been homeless.

Years worth of work by the Iowa City Shelter House built up to Wednesday afternoon with the grand opening of Cross Park Place.

The apartment complex is a demonstrative project for the state to get people off the streets and hopefully save the community money in the process with its “housing first” focus.

“I’m sure for the people who come here it will be a huge benefit for them and that will rebound to the community as a whole,” Jim Throgmorton, Iowa City Mayor, said.

Throgmorton was one of many local leaders that came out for the grand opening.

Inside, there are 24 studio apartments at 370 square feet made possible by the community support.

“For them to do this for us guys, it means a lot to us and we do appreciate it. We appreciate everybody that has donated to it,” Frank Webb said.

Webb said he’s been homeless for 30 years. He’ll soon be one of the first tenants to call Cross Park Place his home, a first for him.

“I’ve never had a home of my own. I’ve only been in jail or on the streets. I’ve never had a home.It’s going to mean a lot,” he said.

Webb said when he was young he spent time in prison. When he got out, he said, he struggled to get a job.

The facility also has on-site office space for health and behavior clinics to partner with staff. However, utilizing the services is not required by the residents.

That’s because Cross Park Place is a “housing first” initiative.

“We make the housing opportunity available without condition,” Crissy Canganelli, Shelter House Executive Director, said.

The future residents of Cross Park Place have been identified by Shelter House as chronically homeless.

“So it means not just the length of homelessness episode or episodes but it means that somebody has a diagnosed disability,” Canganelli said. “So, we’re talking about a very vulnerable population.”

Canganelli said at least 15 of the units will be prioritized for people that have racked up service debt.

“[They’re] incurring really significant costs across our medical, criminal justice and social service systems. Even the medical services in some instances have been over $1.5 million over three years,” Canganelli said.

Webb, has undergone recent major surgery, said he knows his doctor will be happy. He also added that the Iowa City Police Department will be, too.

“They won’t have to deal with me no more,” Webb said.

Canganelli said they hope to start moving in the tenants next week.

There’s no limit for how long residents can stay at Cross Park Place. Shelter House hopes they will make it their permanent home.

In 2017, Shelter House received $2.7 million from the Iowa Fiance Authority for the housing project. They were also assisted by the Housing Trust of Johnson County’ for the construction.

Jalyn Souchek

Jalyn Souchek

Reporter
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