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Advocates look to create Keokuk homeless shelter

WGEM News at Ten
Published: Jan. 28, 2022 at 11:09 PM CST
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KEOKUK (WGEM) - Those looking to help the homeless population in Keokuk said Friday they’re in the process of establishing a much-needed shelter.

Keokuk Homeless Support Alliance chair Amy Smith said the city had a place for people to go when God’s Way Christian Center operated a shelter from 1998 to 2015 but she said since then, the city has been without one.

Smith said homelessness continues to be a growing issue.

Two 2019 reports from the University of Iowa detailed the homeless population in Keokuk with one finding anecdotal evidence of 20 to 30 chronically homeless individuals.

The other found there could be more than 100 people squatting in abandoned houses or buildings.

But advocates, like Keokuk Homeless Support Alliance committee member Tyler Hardcastle, said those numbers have likely grown.

“That’s not even counting surrounding counties,” Hardcastle said. “Keokuk sees a lot of people coming in from Illinois and Missouri because this is a Tri-State area.”

Smith said the pandemic also played a role, increasing poverty across the county.

She said with the need for a shelter so great, they have partnered with Tribulation and Trust Ministries, who operate a shelter in Washington, Iowa, to help get their vision off the ground.

“The Keokuk Homeless Support Alliance will come under our umbrella and we’ll just help manage it and operate it and raise money here in Keokuk that will stay here in Keokuk,” said Tribulation and Trust executive director Darren Brown.

Brown said the biggest problem shelters face is maintaining sufficient funding. He said the Alliance is looking to model the Keokuk shelter after the ministry’s Washington operation; a mostly self-sufficient shelter funded by a thrift store.

“As of last year, we were 86 percent self-supportive, which is pretty impressive as far as the numbers go when you’re talking to a $350,000, $400,000 a year budget,” Brown said.

He said a few sites have been identified as possible locations for the shelter but an issue has come up with Keokuk’s zoning laws

“They don’t have anything in their ordinances for a homeless shelter, so the city has to come up with what zoning and where do we need to be,” Brown said. “Once they get their part figured out then we’ll kind of be able to move forward in that.”

Brown said in the meantime, they’re still looking to gather the funding needed to get the necessary infrastructure in place.

He said the cost of purchasing the site, building the shelter, making the thrift store ready for business, and all the other miscellaneous costs come out to around $300,000.

Brown said, so far, they’ve raised around $14,000.

Both he and Smith said those interested in donating can send cash or checks made out to Tribulation and Trust to P.O. BOX 1382 in Keokuk.

Smith said updates from the Keokuk Homeless Support Alliance can be found on their Facebook page.

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