After attending the very touching groundbreaking ceremony with about 110 concerned folks at the new Shelter House location yesterday afternoon, I feel the need to convey some information that you may not know. As a "truth in advertising" statement, I was a Shelter House Board member until this past month. My opinions to follow do not represent the views of the Shelter House or its board members.
No one appreciates the voice of dissent more than I do. I'm on the short end of the stick in many causes I have been associated with, but in the case of the Shelter House, too much misinformation has come from those fighting against it being built.
1) The Shelter House is not a facility for pedophiles or any other kind of sexual predator to live, as it serves the needs of homeless men, women, and children. The difference is that the shelter does have a mission of compassion for those in need, even if it does not provide shelter to all. That is to say, the Shelter House has programs for all homeless people including helping them to stabilize and find work. It has facilities for people to shower, change their clothes and launder. The new facility will likely train people in the culinary arts and other vocations, in addition to housing them. At present, volunteers bring in dinners for the homeless to the shelter.
2) The 30 or so people who were picketing the site are the worst kind of fearmongerers, as the shelter does more to prevent sexual predators from using its facilities than most rental property managers do. A scan of the Iowa Sexual Offenders Registry site will show you examples of that. In addition, the sexual predator rate in Iowa is much lower than the national average something like 1 in 1000 people are convicted sexual predators and most of that number involve acquaintances and/or family members.
3) Though the Hilltop owners and the Waterfront Neighborhood Association would like you to believe that they are just trying to protect kids, it should be noted that this same group has been using every conceivable legal and public relations maneuver to stop the shelter from being built including numerous nuisance lawsuits after the state Supreme Court reversed a lower court decision.
4) The Shelter House has been planning an enlarged shelter for roughly seven years. Ernie Lehman was the mayor when the original plans were rolled out at a public meeting. Locating an acceptable location has been extremely difficult. As you may imagine, no one is rolling out the red carpet for a homeless shelter. More importantly, we had some very specific requirements for a new location. We wanted it to be on a bus line, in closer proximity to other low income support services, and on land affordable for the shelter to be built to the scale that meets the demand.
It is true that we received ideas for possible locations from Joyce Barker and others, the board's new building and/or executive committees vetted each one. However the location on Southgate and Waterfront best met the needs for the shelter.
5) While city,county, and federal government officials have been great and the funds have been very helpful to the success of running Shelter House and it's services, donations by people like you and me keep the shelter going and are sorely needed to complete the new shelter. At this time, about half the money to build the new shelter has been raised. If you are in Iowa City tomorrow (Friday, July 3) night, you can help by coming to Dawn's Coffeehouse at Dawn's Bead and Hideaway (310 Washington St.) anytime between 5 and 8 pm. For a donation you can listen to Saxophonist Saul Lubaroff and support the building of the new shelter. If you can't come, consider making a donation this way.