Plan to House Homeless in Shipping Containers

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DES MOINES, Iowa — Seeing people live unsheltered in the cold conditions of Winter broke the heart of Melissa O’Neil, CEO of Central Iowa Shelter & Services. O’Neil expressed that sentiment to local leaders at the time. The desire to do better inspired a plan for what is being called phase 2 housing for the chronically homeless.

“The number of chronically homeless individuals at that time was around a 107 people,” said O’Neil. “We now, as of last Tuesday, had roughly 56 individuals who are chronically homeless and 26 of those individuals are residing here at CISS.”

The plan that’s been devised by community leaders is to build 24 housing units out of shipping containers near the shelter.

“That model was based off of the railroad and the shipping containers that were used on the railroad,” said O’Neil.

O’neil explained how it will work.

“They`ll be a bridge that comes from our parking lot, out to a platform,” said O’Neil. “The same security pieces will be in place, and process will be in place, that we have in our existing facility to this platform and then residents will check in and they`ll be able to walk out.”

During the Winter season, Ako Abdul-Samad fed the homeless population living near the shelter, and he hopes that the plan to build 24 new housing units in that area is only the beginning of things to come.

“I think this has to be the beginning,” said Abdul-Samad. “I think let Iowa take the leadership, to actually create a village, you know? I mean, we build what housing complexes and everything in a matter of time. We could take these units, actually build a city for temporary housing to help individuals to get on their feet, to relocate, to be able to provide the services that are necessary.”