Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Homeless in Des Moines

The flowing riverwalk, scenic skyline views, a cheering crowd after the crack of the bat, and the bustling avenues of bars. What could be wrong here? Life is perfect in Des Moines.

But there is a lurking secret. A hidden layer left unpeeled. The agenda thrown to the back of the pile only to be dealt with later. Every city has it: impoverished people.

“It’s their fault they got there. Maybe they should have worked harder”

It is not though. Many times it is not the direct fault of the person that lands them in a homeless shelter, street corner, or camping in tents by the river.

This fault lives in all of us.
Des Moines homeless resident's last day before their camp
is destroyed by the city. Photo courtesy of WHOTV.

It is our fault for not helping them get better: mentally, physically, emotionally, and socially.

It is our fault for being a country founded with discriminatory and unjust prejudices more than two centuries ago.

It is our fault for starting segregation and purposely impoverishing an entire race, and in turn, portions of our city.

It is our fault for holding prejudice still today against these people we have disregarded as members of our society.

It’s your fault.

The time is now, and we have the power to fix it today. There are many ways to help this issue, but one organization in Des Moines, specifically, has had such an enormous influence in the community that attaching numbers to their work is hard to do.

Central Iowa Shelter and Services (CISS) was founded in 1992 by a group of local churches after five men froze to death one cold, wintery night when they were turned away from another jampacked shelter.

The decision of those churches sparked a revolution locally. CISS is now the state’s largest shelter serving approximately

250 residents an evening
69,322 overnight stays just in 2014
2,385 unique clients
115,355 meals
4,703 people with clothing
2,347 from their food pantry

They are making a difference in the lives of many.

St. Boniface youth feed & visit with clients at CISS. Photo courtesy of Mike Nass.

The new building that opened recently allows CISS to assist more in the community, and most notably, enabled clients to be able to stay in the building during the day where they would not be exposed to the addictions or conditions of the street that disregarded them. It truly is rehab for the homeless.

Along with their 50 women’s and 100 men’s emergency beds and around 100 people in overflow nightly, the shelter also offers housing solutions for 19 Veterans and 38 clients who are able to pay for a portion of a low income apartment. This is accompanied by access to three meals a day, a computer lab for career readiness, basic hygiene facilities, case workers if wanted, a greenhouse dome and food pantry, clothing closet, and medical observations.
St. Boniface youth feed & visit with clients at CISS.
Photo courtesy of Mike Nass.

Central Iowa Shelter and Services is a helping hand to all, but they are just one. What if we all held out our hands? Lifted one another up during their struggle and tugged, pulled, and dragged them behind us for a little while; just until we left them in a better place than they started.  The shelter can do a lot, but no matter what way you look at it, they are just one. There are people in Des Moines that are being missed and the numbers are only growing. We need to change our perception “that just because I don’t have today, don’t mean I’m not a benefit tomorrow” says resident Elliott.