STORY BY GIOVANNA ZAVELL
There is no one reason as to why people end up homeless, but many factors may contribute to how people end up living on the streets and in shelters.
For instance, the economy plays a huge role in people’s ability to find work.
If people lose their jobs, it may cause a domino effect in which they lose their house and belongings as well.
Others may be fleeing domestic violence and have money, just not enough to support themselves or their family.
“There is no easy way to determine why someone becomes homeless,” said sociology professor and director of research for The Institute of Community Alliances Ehren Stover-Wright.
“Some people just become poor and have no other way to handle the situation other than becoming homeless. Many like to say they chose to be homeless, but deep down we know this isn’t’ true.”
The Institute of Community Alliance is a non-profit organization that works in Iowa, Wisconsin, Nebraska and Missouri to provide data for the Homeless Management Information System.
The organization strives to bring awareness regionally and nationally about homelessness and the fight to end it.
The Institute of Community Alliance works alongside state and federal agencies to produce reports on homelessness and share them with the world.
Stover-Wright and his team work with every homeless food pantry, shelter and service center for the homeless in Iowa and manage their data analytics throughout each year.
Since winter is coming to an end, more homeless people are visible.
During the winter months, many who are homeless camp somewhere with a space heater and normally don’t move very much from that place.
Also, many stay in the various shelters scattered around the Des Moines area that offer a roof over their heads and a bed to sleep in.
Everyone is not guaranteed a bed, but the shelters use every square inch of their buildings to make sure people are not sleeping in the cold and have a roof over their head.
The fire marshall in Des Moines has even allowed for overflow in some of these shelters.
When it becomes warmer, people get restless and want to move around, which is why we see more homeless individuals on the streets.
“We (the staff of Institute of Community Alliance) walk around Des Moines in the winter and summer and count how many homeless people we see,” Stover-Wright said.
“Many of the homeless you see this year will not be next year. It’s a constant cycle of people who are homeless and we work to bring them back on their feet and move them into housing.”
Many homeless like to hang out around the sculpture park downtown because of its vicinity to The Iowa Homeless Youth Center and other downtown shelters.
The Iowa Homeless Youth Center houses Reggie’s Place, a dining hall that serves meals to anyone who may need it, and a new shelter that was built offers a day program in which homeless can stay not only at night.
“Anyone can become homeless, there is no one stereotype that is only homeless,” Stover-Wright said.
“The cause is not always a substance dependence or a mental disability, it can be everyone. But they all have a chance to make things better for themselves and the city has many services to offer help,” Stover-Wright said.