Iowa City City Council grants $1.1 million for Shelter House Housing Stability Pilot program

The program, which will help continue and expand homeless prevention positions at Shelter House was unanimously approved for funding on Jan. 10.


Gabby Drees

Shelter House executive director Crissy Cannganelli speaks at an Iowa City City Council meeting at City Hall in Iowa City on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022. Cangaenlli has served for the past 18 years at the Shelter House and attended the meeting as the City Council approved a collaborative plan with Shelter House helping to fund full-time civilian positions for homeless street outreach.

Isabelle Foland, News Reporter

The Iowa City nonprofit Shelter House will use over $1 million in COVID-19 relief funds to expand its homelessness prevention programs for Johnson and Washington counties for the next three years. 

The Iowa City City Council unanimously approved Shelter House’s request for a $1,137,710 million COVID-19 relief grant on Jan. 10. 

Shelter House provides housing and various support services, such as mental health resources, to local citizens experiencing homelessness. 

RELATEDIowa City City Council extends Shelter House street outreach and engagement specialist program

Through the program, Shelter House is aiming to improve housing retention through increased partnerships and support, according to a city council agenda. 

The funds will be split into three sections: coordinated entry, housing stabilization services, and eviction prevention and diversion. 

Coordinated entry funds will be used to pay for the salary, benefits, and other costs for one full-time position as a coordinated entry specialist and translation subscription service. 

Coordinated entry specialist position fund replenished 

Christine Hayes, development director at Shelter House, said in an interview with The Daily Iowan that the coordinated entry specialist position is not new to Shelter House. 

“Coordinated entry is the mechanism through which area agencies get together once a week, sometimes twice a week, and go through their prioritization list,” Hayes said. 

This prioritization list, which is based on the Vulnerability Index — Service Prioritization Decision Assistance Tool, determines how at-risk the health of a person who is experiencing homelessness is to prioritize care, Hayes said.

Hayes added that while the position is mandated by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, it was previously unfunded. During the pandemic, the City of Iowa City provided funds for the position, but Hayes said those funds are now running out.

“This allows us to pay someone to do that role on an ongoing basis versus trying to make that work happen either piecemeal through other positions or fundraise for that position,” she said.

The second part of the funding will pay for two full-time housing stability support specialists. These positions will assist with the housing search process and educate tenants on how to be successful in all aspects of renting.

This position will also utilize existing city affordable housing funds — a total of $30,000 annually — to incentivize landlords to accept traditionally unaccepted renters. 

“Funds may cover excessive damages to a rental unit, lost rent, or legal fees beyond those covered by a security deposit up to $3,500,” the agenda states.

This security deposit fund will only be accessible to Iowa City-based landlords.

The final part of the program will use a portion of the funds to employ two full-time eviction prevention and housing stabilization specialists. These positions will help with financial assistance, landlord-tenant education, relationship building, and conflict management. 

Tracy Hightshoe, City of Iowa City neighborhood and development services director, said Shelter House will have to look for other funding after the three years are up.

“While this project serves Johnson County and Washington County, once our three-year funding commitment ends, to continue that level of service, we will need to approach other municipalities and other jurisdictions about continuing funding this program so that we can continue on beyond our pilot project,” Hightshoe said.

All city councilors spoke in favor of the program. Councilor John Thomas said the program fits the city’s goal to create more affordable housing.

“It looks to be a very well-designed program. I like the pilot aspect of it; it gives us an opportunity to tweak and refine and learn from the processes that kind of unfold,” Thomas said. “Kudos to everyone working on this. It’s a really great program.”