Houses into Homes provides bedding and more for students experiencing homelessness

Houses into Homes steps in to supply those students with bedding and basic necessities.


Jeff Sigmund

Houses Into Homes Sign as seen on Friday, July 2, 2021.

Bruce Bartlam, Jr., News Reporter

Houses into Homes has provided beds, furniture, and household items to well over one thousand Iowa City community members since its founding in 2018.

The non-profit has provided 837 beds, diverting many tons from the landfill. The organization relies on donations and volunteers, often students of the University of Iowa, to provide service to the Iowa City residents and K-12 students.

According to the former Homeless Liaison for the Iowa City Community School District Joan Vandenberg, there are roughly 400 homeless students in ISSCD every year.

“Homeless can mean doubled up with family members, in shelters, or living in a car,” Vandenberg said. “We don’t identify all of them, because families and children often don’t come forward due to the stigma.”

Other than Houses into Homes’ services, Vandenberg said the district provides benefits such as free lunch, transportation assistance, school supplies, clothing, and tutoring to children experiencing homelessness.

Vandenberg said she met Salina McCarty and Lucy Barker, the founders of Houses into Homes, through other charitable projects throughout the years. McCarty and Barker asked Vandenberg if there was a need for beds with some of these students under the poverty line.

“We found out that there was no service or organization doing this. There were individual social workers that would help to find beds and furniture, but no organization,” Barker said.

RELATED: Iowa City nonprofit gives beds, furniture to families in need

McCarty explained further the circumstances the families they serve are experiencing homelessness.

“Typically, what we’d see when we enter the home is an air bed, but not always,” McCarty said.  “Sometimes there’ll be one queen-size mattress that the entire family is using for everything that’s in their living room.”

In the beginning, Houses into Homes’ focus was on delivering beds for students to have a good night’s sleep.

“It was us, our husbands, and a few friends,” McCarty said. “We rented a storage unit. I think it was nine by twelve – really small – and continued to do the work for the school district by referrals.”

McCarty said as word spread about Houses into Homes, they now work with 33 agency partners.

Now, Houses into Homes has expanded to provide more than just beds to homeless students in kindergarten through grade 12 as they saw a need for going beyond, McCarty said.

Jeff Kellbach, the Aging Specialist of Johnson County Social Services, said “Houses into Homes has helped the clients he serves to furnish their apartments shortly after they move in.

“I have had older adults I have worked with that were sleeping on their floor because they could not afford a bed,” Kellbach said. “The referral to Houses into Homes not only provided them a bed, but a table with a couple of chairs, a recliner, and a TV in one instance. The impact made on the clients I have worked with has been immense.”