Shelter House to continue operating temporary shelter awaiting construction of permanent location

Shelter House has operated a temporary winter emergency shelter every year since 2015, but this year the organization is requesting two locations.



Johnson County Attorney Janet Lyness and Executive Director of Shelter House Crissy Canganelli at the Johnson County Board of Supervisors Work Session on October 28, 2020. Lyness and Canganelli are seen discussing an agreement on shelter houses for the low-barrier winter shelters at two different locations in Iowa City.

Clinton Garlock, News Reporter

Pending the Board of Supervisor’s approval, Johnson County’s Shelter House plans to operate a temporary winter emergency shelter on South Clinton Street while construction continues on the organization’s Southgate Avenue location.

Each year the group must enter into a use and indemnification agreement with the county in order to use a county-provided space for their winter emergency shelter, and the Board of Supervisors will vote on this season’s proposed agreement on Thursday. The agreement would release the county from any liability for any damages or injuries that occur during Shelter House’s use of the premises.

However, this year Shelter House has proposed two agreements for two separate shelters. One is for their usual location at the old CarQuest Building at 821 S. Clinton St, where they have operated winter shelter services seasonally since 2015. The other agreement is for their new Southgate Avenue location, which is currently still under construction.

“We thought we would maybe only need the Southgate Avenue address but Shelter House … [will] make CarQuest work once again until we can get into the Southgate space,” County Attorney Janet Lyness said.

The Southgate Avenue address is currently under construction and is being built to serve as a more permanent location for the Shelter House’s emergency housing services.

“Construction is moving along but we don’t have a specific date at this point in time,” Lyness said.

Lyness said the agreements for both locations are similar to the agreements Shelter House has made with the Board of Supervisors in the past.

“The only changes really are the dates…. We’re starting it on Nov. 3 because we didn’t want anyone to be in there prior to the election… since [Johnson County] is using the parking lot for the early voting staging,” Lyness said.

Although the Board of Supervisors will only consider the agreement for this year., Supervisor Chair Rod Sullivan said he hoped Shelter House and the county could eventually form a renewable agreement.

“Hopefully at some point we’ll get in some kind of lease with Shelter House that automatically renews unless one party or the others wants to talk about something,” Sullivan said.

The winter shelter was specifically designated on the agreements as “low-barrier”, meaning that it has minimal restrictions for people seeking services.

“We do not breathalyze, there’s not a sobriety requirement or anything like that,” said Crissy Canganelli, the Executive Director of Shelter House. She also said that all shelter interventions provided by Shelter House have been low-barrier “for several years now.”

Supervisor Lisa Green-Douglass asked Canganelli if the Shelter House would be able to staff both shelters once the construction on Southgate is complete, saying she knew Shelter House has had staffing issues in the past.

“Trying to ensure that you’ve got adequate staffing for a temporary service and anticipating what the timeline of that is… can be very challenging. My hope is that we will not be in the CarQuest building through March, so at least having a space that is built for the intended use will help,” Canganelli said.

Canganelli said Shelter House receives a significant amount of support from private organizations and individuals for funding, which more than matches the amount of money they receive from the county and local municipalities.

“We’re very grateful to the county for not only donating a space but the financial contribution and from the other municipalities where we also receive support,” said Canganelli.

Although she said she did not know the exact figures, Canganelli said Shelter House receives about $37,000 from Johnson County, Iowa City, and Coralville.