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Linn County’s overflow shelter is closing on Monday


Linn County’s Fillmore Center, 520 11th St NW. April 20, 2020. — Izabela Zaluska/Little Village

Linn County’s overflow shelter will close on Monday after being open for a year and a half.

The overflow shelter located at the Fillmore Center, 520 11th St NW, is typically open from November to March to address winter housing needs. It’s staffed by employees from Willis Dady Homeless Services and is a no-barrier homeless shelter, which means individuals aren’t required to provide the reason for their lack of other housing options and don’t have to be sober to be admitted.

The shelter opened for the winter season in November 2019 and was expected to stay open through March 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic created the need for the shelter to remain open. The hours changed to 24/7, and the Board of Supervisors extended the shelter’s lease. The building was also used as a cooling center last summer.

The county is closing the shelter as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to decline, according to a news release.

“The overflow shelter was a collaborative effort between the City of Cedar Rapids, Linn County, Willis Dady and local service providers to help ensure our most vulnerable populations had a safe, secure place to stay during a public health crisis, as well as following the catastrophic derecho,” Mayor Brad Hart said in the release.

More than 600 individuals have stayed at the shelter since November 2019, according to the county. An average of 64 people were at the shelter on any given night.

The city, county and local organizations will continue to work with individuals who need housing by connecting them with existing resources in the community for shelter placement or help finding permanent housing, according to the news release.

Supervisor Ben Rogers told Little Village earlier this year that the city and county are in the early stages of working to identify possible spaces and funding to move the overflow shelter to a larger location as need continues to increase.

“We’ve really outgrown the Fillmore,” Rogers said. “It’s been wonderful for what it’s been used for, but it’s kind of met its needs, and we’ve kind of taken it as far as we can. With the population increasing, the needs increasing, we have to, I think, venture out to find another location.”

Finding a new location is a “delicate balance” given all the factors to consider, including making sure transportation isn’t a burden and having enough space to serve more individuals while also practicing social distancing, Rogers said.

Rogers said the goal is to find a building that will not only meet the needs of people currently experiencing homelessness but also future needs, such as a day center where individuals could have access to a computer, mailbox, showers and other basic resources.

“I really want to expand it into something where homeless people have places to go throughout the day that’s safe, where it’s productive for them, where they don’t feel like they have to just occupy their time being out in the community, that they have a safe place to go where they can get services or get clean, get a meal, and connect with other people,” Rogers said.

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