The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Clinton

December 28, 2012

Help for the homeless: A snapshot of Clinton residents’ needs

CLINTON — Nearly 2,000 people are at risk of being homeless in Clinton County — a statistic that doesn’t surprise many of the people fighting to decrease that number everyday.  

“The homeless are not just people living on the streets or in shelters,” Pastor Ray Gimenez, executive director of the Victory Center said. “They’re people doubling up, staying with friends or family. They’re invisible.”

While a number of organizations including the Victory Center, Information, Referral and Assistance Services, the YWCA and others work to prevent homelessness and help those already in its grip, the number of those needing help continues to grow as funding faces sharp cuts. The need for help from the community is greater than ever before, leaders said.     

According to the Iowa Council on Homelessness, an agency of the Iowa Finance Authority, there were 455 homeless in Clinton County last year. That mix includes households and individuals.  

However, the state data shows another 1,965 are at risk of being homeless in the county.  

“Most of the people we see are a paycheck away from homelessness,” Regan Michaelsen, director of Information and Referral, said.  

Her organization works to prevent homelessness in the area by providing rent and utility assistance to those struggling to pay their bills.

Each year $10,000 is budgeted for rent assistance and another $10,000 goes toward utility assistance. On average Information and Referral helps 400 people in a month, about half need help with rent.  

“If you have any interruption in everyday life that can be devastating,” Michaelsen said. “If your car breaks down on the way to work.  Now you’ve missed work and have to pay to get the car fixed. A simple car repair, anything like that could be huge.”

Information and Referral also offers a transitional housing program called JERICHO that has the capacity to house six families.  Some of these families come from other programs while some are in recovery or struggling, Michaelsen said.

By partnering with agencies such as the Associate Benevolent Society and the Salvation Army, community groups can bring the homeless or quasi-homeless items such as food and personal items that can be the difference between paying rent or being evicted.   

Despite its best prevention efforts, the number of homeless or those teetering on the edge continues to grow.  

“It’s becoming harder and harder to fix the need,” Michaelsen said.

According to the state report, homelessness has a long-term effect on those in Clinton County. Of those surveyed in 2011, 81 of the 175 individuals who answered said they were chronically homeless.

For 48 it was the first time being homeless.

For 40 they had been homeless two or three times before and six people had been homeless four or more times.

Gimenez, who founded the Victory Center 25 years ago, said while more than 40 percent of the people who come to his shelter take the programs and leave for productive lives, he’s also seen some of the same people make their way back to the shelter several times.  

“I think a shelter is the last place people expect to find themselves,” said Ronelle Clark, Director of the Clinton YWCA’s Crisis Services Director. “Ninety-nine percent of people have tried other options.”

However, as shown by the state’s figures and numbers from local emergency shelters such as the YWCA’s, many in the community do seek this kind of help.

Last year the YWCA’s emergency shelter housed 171 women and children who were fleeing because of a sexual assault, stalking or domestic violence.  Another 65 chose to use the agency’s transitional housing.  Further, 165 women and children were turned away from emergency shelter due to lack of space while a waiting list of women and children kept their fingers crossed for a spot in transitional housing.

“There are a lot of challenges for people looking for help,” Clark said.

While Clark works at the YWCA, she also serves as the chairperson of the Clinton and Jackson County Coalition for the Homeless. In that role she sees not just women and children suffering, but all types of people with a myriad of struggles preventing them from finding permanent housing.  

Many of the programs in the community focus on specific sections of the population, while limited resources are available to those who do not suffer with domestic violence, substance abuse or chronic mental illness.  

“There’s a gap in the community,” Clark said.   

According to the state report, a majority of those served in Clinton County were homeless due to economics and reasons classified as “other” or reasons not because of crime, moving, family or medical reasons.

Although not all dealing with homelessness also deal with substance abuse, Gimenez and his wife, Mary Anne, said a number of the people who occupy the 90 beds available through the Victory Center’s shelter and YMCA space have struggled with drugs or alcohol.  

County Attorney Mike Wolf also said substance abuse and mental issues are recurring themes of the several homeless who come through the court system every week.

Although these people sober up while in jail, a more sustainable solution would be to institute preventative measures.

”We’re a place of last resort,” Wolf said. “We’re not a permanent fix. Treatment is a permanent fix.”

However, looming cuts to mental health and victim’s assistance funding from the state could threaten the court system’s ability to help the homeless with mental or domestic problems. The YWCA is anticipating a $240,000 shortfall while the cuts to mental health funding could total half a million dollars.  

“I’m concerned it will add to the homeless problem in the community,” Wolf said.

Organizations that prevent and treat homelessness in the area rely on support from community members. The Victory Center stopped taking money from the state 11 years ago and has since not had major troubles funding its $500,000 annual budget with around $100,000 coming in the form of in-kind donation of goods and services. However, this year the organization will need $700,000 in its budget.  

Future budget cuts paired with rising need will force all organizations to rely even more heavily on donations and contributions.

Leaders of the Victory Center, YWCA, Information and Referral, Associate Benevolent Society and Salvation Army echoed each other’s sentiments that financial support is the most effective way to help. Other ways to help include donating sleeping bags, warm blankets, toiletries and food to the Associate Benevolent Society and Salvation Army. The Victory Center also appreciates people hosting fundraisers, or making and serving a meal to the people who visit three times a day for food.  

Beyond donations, Clark urged residents to advocate for services by writing local legislators and continuing to make their voices heard.  

“The community needs to surround this with support,” Clark said.

1
Text Only
Clinton
  • 4-23-14 Northey Burkens committed to ag education CLINTON -- As the Iowa Secretary of Agriculture, Bill Northey said his department doesn't hand out the Good Farm Neighbor Award arbitrarily. Only 10 acknowledgements are bestowed each year. On Wednesday, the honor went to a worthy family in Clinton C

    April 24, 2014 2 Photos

  • Evers: For love of the green CLINTON - Conner Evers calls The Oaks Golf Course his home. There isn't a day where Evers won't visit the golf course on the city's west side. "I spend a lot of time here," Evers said with a laugh. "This is my second home. I love golf, and there's no

    April 24, 2014

  • World Book Night 1 Clinton Public Library hosts largest World Book Night event in the country

    CLINTON -- With more than 21 titles and 800 copies to give away, what reader wouldn't adore an event like World Book Night? Organizers at the Clinton Public Library wondered the same Wednesday, and were pleased with turnout for the third annual event

    April 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • LumberKings score bizarre run CLINTON -- Rain was the only thing that could have saved the Clinton LumberKings from losing Wednesday to Quad Cities 7-1. The run that the LumberKings got, however, came on a bizarre play. In the bottom of the first inning, Tyler O'Neill singled o

    April 24, 2014

  • 4-24-14 1B-Photo, Drake story Youngsters take on oval

    CLINTON -- One of the biggest track meets in the nation begins today, and the youngsters will kick off the event at Drake University in Des Moines. The high school portion of the Drake Relays begins at 3 p.m. with the field events, and Clinton senior

    April 24, 2014 2 Photos

  • City Blog: Council amenable to tree-saving route

    Pershing or Roosevelt? Councilmembers leaning toward more expensive, but more "green" alternative for force main construction.

    April 23, 2014

  • Man charged in meth case

    A Clinton man has been charged with conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine and possession of methamphetamine.

    Timothy W. Atkinson, 35, 1419 Honey Lane, was arrested Sunday after Clinton police executed a search warrant at his residence.

    April 23, 2014

  • Judge denies guilty plea withdrawal

    A Clinton County District Court judge has denied a man's attempt at withdrawing a guilty plea.

    Eric R. Hook, 45, 900 S. 10th St., was sentenced last week to no more than five years in prison for willful injury causing bodily injury, a class D felony. He also was given a sentence of no more than two years in prison for domestic abuse assault, second offense, to be served concurrently.

    April 23, 2014

  • Medication drop boxes available

    Although no formal event is planned in Clinton County for Saturday’s nationwide Medication Take Back Day, area officials are reminding residents this week about permanent drop boxes at area law enforcement agencies.
    Unused or expired medications can be disposed of during normal business hours in the lobbies of four police departments in Clinton County — Camanche Police Department, 819 South Washington Blvd.; Clinton County Sheriff’s office, 241 Seventh Ave. North; Clinton Police Department, 116 Sixth Ave. South; DeWitt Police Department, 606 Ninth St.

    April 23, 2014

  • Legal Services photo New legal services agreement proceeds CLINTON - By one vote, the Clinton City Council voted for Lynch Dallas over local firm Frey, Haufe and Current as its next city attorney service. On Tuesday, in a show of solidarity, the council was unanimous, officially hiring the Cedar Rapids group

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

Clinton Herald Photos


Browse, buy and submit pictures with our photo site.

Facebook