Special edition of the
The realities of homelessness in Newton
Life on the brink
LIFE ON THE BRINK
www.newtondailynews.com | Wednesday | Nov. 22, 2017
The Addict Jason Purtilo is running out of chances to turn his life around, but his friends and family haven’t given up on him
Tonight, Penny won’t have to worry about her son Jason, she knows he’s safe. Inmate number 6622743, Purtilo is locked up in the Jasper County jail, doing a 60-day sentence for violating his parole. Knowing her only son, who is homeless, isn’t out on the streets is a relief for Penny, who’s struggled to help Jason deal with mental illness and crippling drug addiction.
“I’d wonder where he is at night, and if he’s somewhere warm when it’s cold,” Penny said. “It’s a constant worry, a parent needs to know that their child is safe.” This isn’t the first time that Purtilo has been locked up, and Penny is worried this won’t be the last. As she heads into the visitor’s room at the Jasper County jail and sits down at one of the booths to call her son, Penny said she’s concerned her son is just another casualty of the war on drugs. “He’s a wonderful kid; he’s just lost in the system,” Penny said. “In prison, they said they were going to reform him, but it was just classes and certificates. How can you learn to be drug-free when you’re locked up?” Penny asked. Purtilo’s struggles with drug addiction began when he started using at 17, and by the time he was 18, he’d moved out of his mother’s house in Baxter. For a while, Jason worked a variety of jobs in the construction industry, but eventually, his drug use became too overwhelming. At 34 years old, he’s spent most of the 16 years in and out of jail for a variety of crimes, most drug-related. Penny said she’s at
a loss to understand how to help her son, and while she visits him weekly in the jail, he hasn’t lived with her in years. “As a parent, you hate to see your kid struggle,” Penny said. As they speak to one another during the visiting period at the jail, Penny reminds Jason no one has given up on him, and she’s still hopeful he’ll be able to turn his life around. She’s optimistic she’ll be able to get him into a treatment program run by The Salvation Army, and Jason will be able to kick his habit. “You need a place where you can go, where they can help you. No one’s going to give up on you, especially not Robyn,” Penny tells her son. “I hope you haven’t given up either.” Robyn Taylor has been the one bright spot in Purtilo’s struggle against drugs and mental illness. Taylor, a lifelong Newton resident who spends most of her free time volunteering to help the homeless first encountered Purtilo in the spring of 2017. Her friend Marilyn Terlouw, who co-founded Friends in Hope, a service organization dedicated to helping struggling residents found Jason laying on the sidewalk in downtown New-
ton — injured and shoeless. He’d recently been released from the hospital after receiving treatment for a beating administered by local drug dealers. Terlouw and Taylor took Purtilo to the Mid-Iowa Motel, a clearing house in Newton for needy residents looking for a safe place to spend the night. Penny can’t say enough good things about Taylor, and she thanks God he’s brought her into Jason’s life. “She’s just an angel; she never gives up,” Penny said. “I wish there were more people out there like her.” After staying at the Mid-Iowa, Purtilo hit the streets again, and Taylor would see him occasionally, walking around town. She’d always stop and ask him if he needed anything, and more often than not, he’d ask her to take him to Burger King to get something to eat. Taylor can still remember his order. “A Whopper Jr., with no tomatoes,” Taylor says, with a laugh. BRINK | 3C
LIFE ON THE BRINK
www.newtondailynews.com | Wednesday | Nov. 22, 2017 | 3C
Brink Continued from Page 2C There was something about Purtilo that resonated with Taylor, who’s helped hundreds in Newton get back on their feet, and every time she saw him, she’d stop to talk to him. At first, Purtilo was reluctant to trust Taylor, he’d been on the streets for long enough he’d learned to be careful around people he wasn’t comfortable with. As the summer progressed, Taylor became increasingly concerned about Jason, and she started pushing him harder to get some help. One night, she told him she had a hammock in her backyard if he needed a place to stay. Before long he’d begun staying in Taylor’s guest room, and the pair had developed an unlikely friendship. “I never looked into his past, even when I let him move in with me,” Taylor said. Purtilo told Taylor he couldn’t believe she hadn’t done her due diligence, and he warned her he’d made some mistakes in his life, but Taylor wasn’t hearing any of it. In a conversation this summer, she told him, “I’m not worried about your past, I’m more worried about your future,” Taylor said. To live with Taylor, Purtilo had to follow two simple rules. Taylor forbid drugs in the house, and she asked him not to steal from her or her neighbors. She had a reason to be concerned about theft, Purtilo had been stealing to feed his drug habit ever since he lost his construction job. Before meeting Robyn, he’d slept on a couch in one of the city’s “traphouses” where drug users gather to get high, and when he woke up in the morning, he’d start figuring out where his next fix was coming from. Purtilo would hit up the dumpster behind Casey’s in the morning to see if there were any breakfast sandwiches still good enough to eat before he’d start walking around town. Unlocked cars and garages were easy prey, and when the need got bad enough, Purtilo said he’d even break into storage units, climbing across the walls from unit to unit, looking for things to steal. Even with Taylor providing him a place to live and plenty to eat it was hard to ignore the call of the streets. “He’s owned it, he told me ‘I got hooked up with the wrong kind of people’, and it’s pretty hard to get out of the group when you’re in it.” Penny said. Old friends were still texting him, inviting him over to traphouses, and even though he claimed he wasn’t getting high, Taylor said she knew he’d been slipping over the summer. In late July, Taylor and Penny tried to get Jason involuntarily committed, but “everything was botched,” according to Taylor. Law enforcement officers took Purtilo to Skiff Medical Center in Newton, but following the evaluation they released him, instead of keeping him in custody. “He was certain that people were following him, and yelling at him, he’d be yelling, screaming at random things,” Taylor said. Mental health and drug abuse are two of the biggest drivers for homelessness according to surveys. A study released by NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness shows that 26 percent of homeless living in shelters were struggling with serious mental illness, and 46 percent live with serious mental illness and/or substance abuse disorders. One in five prisoners in jail has had a recent mental health incident. By August, Jason’s behavior had begun to deteriorate significantly. He’d quit taking his medications for schizophrenia, concerned about possible side effects, and he’d started to become more withdrawn. On Aug. 7, police officers responded to several calls about Jason’s behavior, and in a report, they stated that “Officer also received several different complaints from different callers about Purtilo’s erratic and bizarre behavior. The complaints ranged from screaming at himself, walking in the road, walking through backyards and laying in the roadway.” Two days later, things got even worse. Purtilo was arrested for assault. In the complaint, officers stated he’d tried to remove a woman’s son from his car seat in the middle of the road, pulling on his legs to get him out of the vehicle. Officers took Jason to jail, where he served a 30day sentence for assault, which for Taylor, felt like a relief. “I called the police department and I said, ‘he’s going to hurt someone,’ I was a wreck,” Taylor said. “It was a blessing because they got him into the medical unit, and he was detoxing, they were able to get him back on his medication.” Purtilo suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, and when he’s off his medication, he constantly hears voices. But once the medication kicked in, he stopped hearing the voices, and that’s when he decided to quit taking the drugs. “He told me, ‘the voices are gone, I don’t need them anymore,’” Taylor said. After agreeing to a suspended sentence and two years of probation for being found in possession of a meth pipe in May, Purtilo told Tay-
Submitted Photo Jason Purtilo smokes a cigarette this summer. For most of the summer Purtilo was living with Robyn Taylor while struggling with drug addiction and mental illness. After a recent parole violation Purtilo is back in jail, where he’s waiting to find out if he’ll be able to attend a treatment center.
“Picture doing something that you know is killing you, and you’ve lost everyone around you, you know it’s bad, and you can’t stop doing it.” — Jason Purtilo
lor he knew he’d have to clean up his act and make some changes. As fall began, there were some signs, he was actively looking to make a change in his life. He’d started a job with Dodd’s, a local trash hauling and recycling company in Newton, and after his first day on the job, he told Taylor that he liked the work. Still, a looming court date had Purtilo nervous about his future, and it wasn’t long before Taylor began to see troubling signs. “He’d be gone for a few days, and he’d come back a mess,” Taylor said. “It’s hard to watch, I know he’s in pain and he’s hurting, but he can’t stop it on his own.” Purtilo can see the writing on the wall, he knows that his drug addiction is threatening to consume him, or at the very least, keep him locked up for the rest of his life. Still, he’s found it hard to break away from his old habits, and he yearns to move back to Des Moines, where he worked construction, although Taylor said she’s unsure if he’d be able to survive on his own. “He’s very institutionalized,” Taylor said. After kicking the habit time and time again, Purtilo said he can see why his friends and family are frustrated. Without a drug addiction, it’s hard to understand the forces that drive him and keep him from getting sober. As he talks to his mother in jail, he asks her time and time again if she’s angry at him, or if she’s given up on him. He knows the clock is ticking, and he’s running out of chances. “Picture doing something that you know is killing you, and you’ve lost everyone around you, you know it’s bad, and you can’t stop doing it,” Purtilo said. There’s plenty of time to reflect inside the walls of the Jasper County Jail, and Purtilo said he’s spent days staring at the walls and thinking about his life. He knows he needs to go to treatment, and he’s hopeful he’ll be able to bond out of jail and enter into a treatment program. “I know I need to go, I know I need it,” Pur-
“That isn’t good enough; that’s what the problem is. Don’t lock him up and let him sit there when you know he’s got a problem, you’re not addressing the problem, you’re just locking it away.” —Penny, Jason’s Mother
tilo said. Taylor said she knows Jason needs to get help, although she’s been down this road before with Jason. She’s worried if he walks out of a treatment center, it won’t be long until he’s back on the streets, and she isn’t sure what she’ll do if she sees him walking around Newton. “I just don’t know if I’d be able to see him walking down the streets and not pick him up, I love that kid,” Taylor said. “I can’t go back riding on that crazy train though, it’s just too much.” For Penny and Taylor, Jason hasn’t run out of chances yet. During her visit at the jail, Penny and her son talked about Thanksgiving, and Jason knew he’d still be locked up when the holiday rolled around. Penny told her son she was looking forward to a time when he was out of jail and sober, she wants to teach him to cook. “I’m waiting for you to invite me to your house for dinner, I’ve got to teach you how to cook,” Penny told her son. “Read your books, watch TV, I love you buddy, it’s cold outside.” Penny knows her son wants her to cover his $300 bond and bail him out more than anything in the world, but she’s convinced he isn’t ready for that step. Working with Taylor, Penny is hoping they can find a place to move Jason to where he can get the treatment he needs and start piecing his life back together. “If a parent steps in to help, it’s more like enabling,” Penny said. “They need someone from the outside looking in.” She’s hoping that Jason will get the treatment he needs while he’s in jail, although she has her doubts. Purtilo has completed drug classes and treatment programs during other stints behind bars, but nothing has stuck. After being released from jail last time, Purtilo met with a probation officer and a sober life counselor, but for Penny, it was too little, too late, as she watched her son slip back to the streets. “That isn’t good enough; that’s what the problem is,” Penny said. “Don’t lock him up and let him sit there when you know he’s got a problem, you’re not addressing the problem, you’re just locking it away.” Shortly before the police came to arrest him for violating the terms of his probation, Jason told Taylor the entire experience had been an “epic fail,” something Taylor doesn’t agree with at all. While it’s been a “crazy ride,” Taylor said she doesn’t have any regrets. She knows what people have said, and she knows most people wouldn’t even consider working with Jason, and helping him, let alone move into her house. Over the past year, he’s become almost a second son to her, and the house is quiet without Jason. His laundry, neatly folded is still sitting at the top of the stairs, and Robyn hasn’t been in his room since he left. She’s not sure what she’ll do when he comes back, or if he will, and she isn’t sure if he’ll be sober or not, but she’s hoping. Robyn Taylor hasn’t given up just yet. “I don’t know, I hope it does,” Taylor said. “I pray about it every single day. He can start his whole life over again right now, and he can have a good life.” Contact David Dolmage at 641-792-3121 ext. 6532 or email@example.com
LIFE ON THE BRINK
www.newtondailynews.com | Wednesday | Nov. 22, 2017
Mike Mendenhall/Daily News Faith is central to Newton native Robyn Taylor’s advocacy. The 49-year-old is one of the founding members of Friends in Hope, working one-on-one with Newton’s homeless population and impoverished. In her three-and-a-half years as a volunteer, Taylor has found funding and housing resources for those in need, as well as personally fed, clothed and sheltered local homeless.
The Advocate Robyn Taylor gives hope to those who have none By Mike Mendenhall Newton Daily News It was spring 2013 when Robyn Taylor took a phone call from her friend Marilyn Terlouw that would completely alter her perspective of her hometown. Terlouw was walking her dog in uptown Newton looking for a woman who was living in the gazebo in the park on First Avenue East. Terlouw decided she was going offer her own home as a refuge to escape the recent thunder, lighting and rainstorms. Taylor was skeptical Newton even had a homeless population, and for Terlouw to have the bravery to bring the woman home, Taylor couldn’t believe it. “I said, ‘You’re crazy. You can’t do that. You don’t know her. You can’t just bring her there.’ Marilyn told me ‘No, I’m going to do it. I’m going to get her,’” Taylor said. The woman was struggling with mental illness and spent her last $80 on cab fair to escape the tense atmosphere and drug problems of the larger homeless shelters in Des Moines and Boone. She arrived in Newton, surprised to find the city has no shelter. So she moved her bag and blankets to the park and began sleeping in the gazebo. Once Terlouw was determined to help, Taylor also got to work. She went through her closets and took clothes and shoes to her friend, who had the woman bunking in a secure back room of her downtown flat. Together with a small group of volunteers, they were able to help the woman land a job at Hy-Vee washing dishes and find an apartment. Taylor called the space “less than adequate,” even “horrific.” The toilet was black due to mold buildup and used needles found in the bedroom closet had to be removed, but it was what the woman could afford. Owner of professional cleaning business, Taylor has an abundance of sprays, mops, sponges and disinfectants at her disposal and assured the woman she would help make the apartment livable. She dropped the woman off with the supplies and left to clean an account in Grinnell. When she returned three hours later, Taylor found the woman had been busy. “When I came back that place was immaculate. She had scrubbed the walls and the baseboards. I mean, I would have eaten off that floor,” Taylor said. “She was so happy to have a place, and she was proud of it. That’s when people rallied and brought furniture, and totally dialed her in.” Taylor worked with friends to collect pots, pans, dishes and more. It was the beginning of Friends in Hope — a small group of local volunteers banded together to combat homelessness in Newton. Armed with this story and many others like it, Terlouw organized a community meeting, inviting city officials and a
local mental health organizations to lobby for the creation of a shelter, but it was determined the city did not have the resources. “That’s when we dove in with our little group, and we’ve been winging it ever since,” Taylor said. For Taylor, the experience was her first with Newton’s homeless. It would dramatically change her direction in life and began the 49-year-old’s advocacy for Newton’s homeless population.
“She is always willing to help and never turns me down. I was surprised how hard it is to find volunteers to help. It’s easier to do it yourself, and that’s what Robyn would do. In the time it would take for her to find someone else to volunteer it was easier to do it yourself. She is a big doer.” — Marilyn Terlouw
Terlouw took on the role of president of Friends in Hope. She said Newton has two distinct types of poverty. Situational poverty is brought on through financial burden from the loss of a spouse, job or development of an illness. Terlouw said this is usually temporary and less difficult for volunteers to help reverse. But Newton also sees generational poverty where social economic impact, including homelessness, is passed down from parent to child, stemming from addiction, incarceration or serial unemployment. Terlouw said it’s difficult to quantify the true numbers in Newton’s homeless population because there is no dedicated agency gathering local data, but she said there’s someone receiving assistance from Friends in Hope “every week.” Taylor dubbed herself Terlouw’s “lovely assistant” in Friends in Hope, but the former Friends in Hope president said Taylor is and has been so much more. “She is always willing to help and never turns me down,” Terlouw said.“I was surprised
how hard it is to find volunteers to help. It’s easier to do it yourself, and that’s what Robyn would do. In the time it would take for her to find someone else to volunteer it was easier to do it yourself. She is a big doer.” Taylor grew up in Newton and, with the exception of a short stint in Colfax, has “lived here pretty much forever,” she said. Taylor is divorced and lives alone in a small rental house on Newton’s southwest side. Her young grandson keeps her company every night until 7 p.m. She has two grown daughters, two grandsons and a granddaughter on the way. Taylor’s home is decorated “her way,” with warm colors, African-inspired tribal masks and a variety of Christian crosses. Taylor says her advocacy is “a God thing” and faith is central to her life. Taylor has run Taylor Maid Cleaning for about 15 years, holding accounts in Jasper County and the Grinnell area. Before state government budget cuts, Taylor worked for the Iowa Department of Human Services, writing reports for child abuse investigators and eventually transferring to a position distributing food stamps to low-income Iowans. It was while working for DHS Taylor decided no person should be hungry. “I kind of got a little ‘I wanna save the world thing’ going on when I worked there,” she said. Taylor had not seen the food stamp note before taking that job. The need for free assistance programs she witnessed every day was jarring. “I had a really good life growing up, and I really didn’t want for anything. I didn’t know that poverty like that existed. When you’re in school you know that some people are poor, but you don’t know that people are hungry. It was a culture shock.” Taylor doesn’t keep a running tally of the homeless she’s helped the last three-and-a-half years, but she tells the story of each individual like they’re kin. Within Friends in Hope, Taylor’s primary duty has been locating fair housing for people. She works with landlords, assists the homeless with background checks and locates funding for deposits and first months rent. It’s tough, Taylor said, to come up with $1,100 when someone has nothing. So she’s worked closely with the Newton Salvation Army and IMPACT Community Action Program to find grants and other assistance. “These organizations know me now. They’re like, ‘Oh, the crazy lady is here, she’s going to demand cash,’” she said. “I tell the people who I’m helping we’re going to need some free stuff and that’s what we’re going to get. They’re at a low point. They’re so low they don’t know how to get out of it, and they don’t feel comfortable asking for help. So I’m like ‘I’m going to ask for you, let’s go.’” TAYLOR | 5C
LIFE ON THE BRINK
www.newtondailynews.com | Wednesday | Nov. 22, 2017 | 5C
Taylor Continued from Page 4D One family Taylor assisted was battling health issues and medical bills and in the interim their food assistance was canceled because the paperwork could not be filed on time. Taylor said volunteers rallied to help find the couple employment and an apartment for their two children. Taylor received a message via social media last week with news the family has now purchased a house. During a recent interview at her home, Taylor began to tear up — a rare victory in work with a lot of hills and valleys. The emotional investment Taylor shows in every one of her Friends in Hope assignments comes naturally. “I cry every time. I don’t really know how not to,” Taylor said. “They’re coming to you with their life in major turmoil, and they’re saying ‘help me.’ So you either have to care or you don’t.” Janice Jenkins is Taylor’s employee and friend. She’s worked at Taylor Maid Cleaning for nearly seven years and often goes along for the ride when Taylor gets a call to serve, many times adding her own gift of extra blankets and clothing. Jenkins said it’s her friend’s natural ability to relate to people in need that makes Taylor so effective. “They look forward to seeing her. She has the personality it takes to really make them feel liked. It just happens. The judgmental level isn’t there. She’s really interested in what they are doing,” Jenkins said. Everyone around Taylor sees her strength, but every person has a breaking point. In April, Taylor was assisting several different
Submitted Photo Robyn Taylor poses for a photo with her friend Jason Purtilo. Taylor and Purtilo are the most unlikely of friends, but when Taylor saw Purtilo living on the streets this summer she knew she had to reach out to help him.
families in poverty. Her caseload had become too emotionally taxing, and Taylor made the conscious decision to take a step back from Friends in Hope to focus on herself and her grandkids. But that reprieve was temporarily put on hold when Taylor made an immediate connection with a homeless man named Jason. Her work with Jason began in similar fashion to her first interaction with the homeless — Terlouw finding Jason laying on a Newton sidewalk asking for help. He was crying, moaning and had no shoes. Taylor said he was clearly suffering from mental illness, so with her experience, she knew her questions needed to be direct. “I really don’t hold back. I don’t mince words. I said, ‘What’s the deal? What are you on? What are you coming off of?’” Taylor said. Working with another Friends in Hope volunteer, they got Jason a week’s stay
at the Mid-Iowa Motel — a place their group has found to be safe and respectful to the homeless. After his stay, Jason decided to go back on the streets, and it was a while before Taylor heard from him. She’d see Jason around town occasionally, buy him Burger King drive-thru and chit chat. People around Newton began to connect Jason with Taylor, and she’d get calls from convenience store owners and other advocates with updates on his condition and activity. “Eventually, he started contacting me. He’d get picked up (by police). He’d be walking around town talking to himself and the voices were getting bad. I’d get calls in the night, ‘Can we drop him off?’ I’d say yeah, bring him over.’” Providing Jason shelter was a step deeper into advocacy for Taylor. She had not housed the homeless in her own home. She got in contact with Jason’s mother and they became close.
Taylor discovered Jason had a family who wanted nothing more than for him to be well and safe. But Nov. 8, Jason had another setback. A warrant was out for his arrest, and he went to the Jasper County Jail. “Nobody’s bringing him strawberry milk in jail, I can tell you that. But they are very kind to him and know of the issues that he has,” Taylor said. “The jailers were so good at getting him the help he needed and on the medication we’ve been trying to get him on for a long time.” It may be Taylor’s intent to step back from her work, but even she concedes she can’t fully walk away from those in need. She recently crossed paths with Newton couple Jim and Meredith Tracy. In April they helped establish a blessing box through St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church and more recently have established another homelessness advocacy group, Neighbors
Helping Neighbors. She volunteered at the groups recent free laundry night for the homeless. Taylor’s dream is to see an emergency shelter in Newton with a transitional center and to see Friends in Hope combine resources with Neighbors Helping Neighbors. A year ago, on her left hand, Taylor inked a tattoo which simply reads “hope.” She says it’s a reminder of the one thing needed to keep positive while exposing oneself to the strife of others. “If you have nothing else,” she said, “maybe you have hope.” If you’re interested in getting involved with Friends in Hope, contact Linda Curtis-Stolper at linda.curtisstolper@gmail. com or at 641-840-2417. You can also find Friends in Hope on Facebook. Contact Mike Mendenhall at mmendenhall @newtondailynews.com
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LIFE ON THE BRINK
www.newtondailynews.com | Wednesday | Nov. 22, 2017
Mental illness creates barrier for Newton’s homeless By Abigail Pelzer Newton Daily News
It’s impossible to track the number of homeless in Newton. Unlike major metropolitan areas, it doesn’t make itself known by villages of cardboard box homes, grocery cart luggage or huddled masses around the glow of a burning fire barrel. In Newton, homeless are more inclined to sofa surf — find a couch to crash on for a night, or a few weeks, or until it’s clear it’s time to move on. It could be people looking for a hot meal, some clothes or maybe a little gas money to get to the next stop. In this way, homelessness is undetected by most, just like its nearly constant companion, mental illness. Kelly Zach, a case manager at The Salvation Army, is often one of the first who meets the homeless in Newton. In early November, she assisted three new couples who identified as homeless, they came in seeking blankets, pop-top food and resources. Being without a place to live was a new experience for them. Zach said the majority of people she works with have some type of mental illness. Her first step is encouraging them to connect with Jasper County’s vast mental health resources such as Central Iowa Community Services and providers like Capstone, Optimae, House of Mercy and Integrated Treatment Services. “There are just so many resources we can connect them to ... they can get three months of mental health treatment, and we can help with prescriptions if that’s needed,” Zach said. “The first priority is we want them to get to feeling better so they have the chance to get a job and get the money it’s going to take to get into a place.” Zach sees a consistent number of homeless in the community, she said, working now with clients who have been homeless for a year or two. “People don’t want to realize we do have homelessness,” Zach said. “The community thinks it’s small scale. Nobody wants to say they are homeless.” Julie Smith, director at Capstone, said she sees the tie between mental health and homelessness in Newton. “A lot of people we get in for therapy who report they are homeless are wanting help because they lost their job or their family has alienated them because of substance abuse issues or something like that.” She said finding affordable and livable housing can be a difficult obstacle to overcome, particularly when people with a past can’t pass a background check to live in subsidized housing. “I do think when they have a mental illness, it may be more difficult for them to navigate the system — they don’t have a place to live because they’ve burned their bridges in Newton,” Smith said. Connie Wright, director of Optimae LifeServices, said she agrees the issues with mental health and substance abuse are drivers for more complex situations in maintaining local housing. “We see the inability to maintain where they’re at and then background checks are impossible for
David Dolmage/Daily News Julie Bishop Gibson, grant coordinator for a three-year grant aiming to increase access to mental health care, listens during a recent meeting of mental health providers and local lawmakers.
Dave Dolmage/Daily News Kelly Zach, a case manager at The Salvation Army, is in regular contact with people requesting services at the local nonprofit. Zach said the homeless population she helps also suffers from mental health issues.
some of them to clear,” Wright said. However, Optimae’s services are crafted to help meet needs like maintaining safe, affordable housing. Those involved in its supported community living address those concerns. “It’s making sure paperwork gets completed, not losing subsidies, keeping it clean free of bugs or trash,” Wright said. “If they are in our program, that’s part of what I do. We’ve been able to keep people in apartments as long as they abide by the rules.” There are about 80 people who receive Optimae’s home-based services, Wright said. The local provider added a mental health care unit to its Newton building more than a year ago after seeing a demand for psychiatric services, medication and therapy. Julie Bishop Gibson is the grant coordinator for a three-year grant which aims to increase access to mental health care and improve coordination among Jasper County providers like Capstone and Optimae. When mental health was identified as the most critical health care concern across Jasper County, Skiff Medical Center and House of Mercy applied for $100,000 grant through the Catholic Health Initiatives. Gibson is in the second year of the grant work in which she’s worked to build a strong collaboration among local providers. The coalition meetings have gathered providers, law enforcement and others to tackle some tough conversations, Gibson said. Gibson’s goals, along with local stakeholders in the mental health
coalition, include improving coordination among community organizations to provide coordinated mental health services and increasing the quality and quantity of outpatient mental health/substance abuse services. “We have been able to identify roadblocks, bottlenecks and frustrations that restrict access to mental health care,” Gibson said. “We identified a need for mobile crisis, support groups for families and individuals with mental health concerns, all of which are in place now or will be in the near future.” Gibson said the grant works to help the community understand the current mental health care environment with a reduced number of beds, Skiff ’s emergency department is often not able to be the solution to mental health crisis that it once was. “By working with providers such as Capstone, House of Mercy, Optimae, Integrated Treatment Services, therapists or advanced nurse practitioners, to identify the right, quality mental healthcare solutions, citizens will be able to form healing relationships that lead to a greater sense of wellness for everyone involved,” Gibson said. Challenges for both Skiff Medical Center and local law enforcement who are required to be present during a mental health hold at its Emergency Room have remained steady since the closure of two state mental health hospitals. Jasper County Sheriff John Halferty said it’s not uncommon for his staff to spend more than 48 hours straight at Skiff because a patient is determined to need mental health
care and no bed is available. “It requires us to stay with the person constantly. It also takes a room at the emergency room and staff at the emergency room because they have their obligation to treat the patient as well,” Halferty said. Sonja Ranck, chief clinical officer at Skiff, said the average stay including wait time for a bed is 24-hours, but in some cases patients must wait multiple days. “Statewide the same issues remain, with the significant lack of available beds for patients with mental health needs. When there is a delay in finding a bed, patients can experience long ED stays,” Ranck said. At the Jasper County Jail, 70 inmates were identified with a major mental illness this year, according to its latest report. Further, 59 inmates had mental health evaluations and 25 percent of inmates were on psychotropic drugs. Halferty said mental health continues to be at the forefront of their duties at the Jasper County Sheriff ’s Office. His staff has been trained in mental health first aid, and they continue to offer more resources to those inmates who need help, he said. “Without a doubt, we have had individuals and we currently have individuals who are in jail because either no (mental health) resources or facilities were available,” Halferty said. “What happens many times is the individual is in a condition where they won’t accept resources, and they end up committing a criminal act, misdemeanor crimes, and they end up in jail unable to bond out.” Outside of the jail, Halferty said much time is spent during mental health commitments and evaluations, transporting for evaluations and treatment and responding to calls for service for individuals in crisis. “Many times our resources are exhausted due to the number of individuals who are suffering from mental health and/or substance abuse issues,” Halferty said. “This affects our entire office from dispatchers handling mental health calls to our office staff handling the documentation.” Halferty said the mental health crisis needs to be addressed by a collective group of citizens and elected officials to push for legislation to help. “Jail is not the easy answer for someone in crisis, but many times they end up there, due to a criminal charge,” Halferty said.
LIFE ON THE BRINK
www.newtondailynews.com | Wednesday | Nov. 22, 2017 | 7C
A place for help and hope The Salvation Army is a safe harbor for homeless
David Dolmage/Daily News A woman looks about a collection of breads and other goods during Friday’s distribution day at The Salvation Army in Newton. The nonprofit is often a first stop for people in need.
By Kayla Singletary Newton Daily News
they think life’s an adventure and they’d rather sofa surf.” A lot of homeless people in the county who are in smaller communities are moving into sheds and garages, according to Zach. “If they tell me they’re homeless, I’ll call the Newton YMCA and get them a membership for a month so they can shower,” Zach said. “There are a lot of good people who are working for the good.” Zach said there are seasonal needs such as blankets, coats, hats, gloves, mittens and warm shoes. “A lot of them will need snow boots, but they are really hard to come by,” Zach said. “I just try to make sure their shoes don’t have holes.” Zach said some people come in and take naps in the middle of the afternoon inside of The Salvation Army’s lobby and to “just get off the streets.” She said she hopes if people in the community come upon a homeless person, that they won’t just “shy your eyes” from them. “Just ask them if they want you to buy them a sandwich because a lot of the times they are scrounging through the dumpsters for food,” Zach said. “Homelessness and hunger go hand and hand.” Cleaveland said there are positive stories of people finding their way and receiving the help they need. Most of all, she enjoys hearing about community members lending a hand to one another. “A gentlemen called our office because he saw a lady at the hospital with no coat and no shoes,” Cleaveland said. “He wondered what to do, and I said if she wants clothing you can come get her some clothing from the thrift store, and we are willing to help her in that way.” Cleaveland said she hopes people in the community will recognize homelessness is here. “It should be brought to light,” Cleaveland said. “I think we should work together as a community. They are still our brothers and sisters whether or not they have a permanent address.” IMPACT Community Action Partnership also acts as a good local resource for those in need. IMPACT’s office is in the Jasper County Annex Building, 115 N. Second Ave. Individuals are eligible if they already receive utility assistance or through an application process. IMPACT also provides cleaning supplies and a food and hygiene pantry they can use every three months. The bread line at The Salvation Army is available at 9:30 a.m. Tuesdays and Fridays.
The Jasper County Salvation Army is oftentimes the first location people in need and the homeless go to in the community. The staff at The Salvation Army in Newton work to provide resources, food and clothing but most of all — hope. Captain Janelle Cleaveland said she works on a daily basis to collaborate with other organizations in the community, and although she has only been in Newton since July, she said she recognizes homelessness is present in the county. “I hear stories when people come in of people that are living in bushes, and through working with Friends in Hope, I’ve heard stories,” Cleaveland said. “It’s present here in Newton.” The Salvation Army often struggles with finding affordable housing, and the closest homeless shelter is located in Des Moines, which is an additional roadblock. Cleaveland said Friends in Hope, a local nonprofit organization, did provide rides to Des Moines to the homeless shelter at one time but that isn’t a regular occurrence. She also said The Salvation Army in Des Moines has an adult rehab center for people with addictions to drugs or alcohol. Friends in Hope director Linda Curtis-Stolper said the organization is working to re-organize how they will offer services to Jasper County residents. “There have been a few occasions we have transported individuals to Des Moines because they were in dire need,” Curtis-Stolper said. “We would like to stay local though.” She said the partnership the organization has with The Salvation Army has always been beneficial and positive. “The Salvation Army and Friends in Hope working together offers a lot of cross-benefits for people in need,” Curtis-Stolper said. “We really appreciate all The Salvation Army does and pointing people in the right direction.” The Salvation Army also sometimes works with landlords in Newton. Kelly Zach, a case worker at The Salvation Army, said she will call landlords and ask them to give certain people a second chance. Zach sits at the front desk and is the first point of contact when people seek help. Zach handles situations from someone needing a coat to someone needing a place to live. Zach has formed trust with many people who receive assistance at The Salvation Army, and she truly cares about their situations. “There needs to be a long-term solution here in Newton, but this community cannot finance and staff a homeless shelter,” Zach said. “Therefore, we must all work together to make sure there’s long-term housing needs for the homeless or get someone to take them to the homeless shelters.” Zach said in the past when there is a family who is on the verge of homelessness, they would be referred to Friends In Hope, and they would be partnered up with a mentor. “They truly need a friend and a mentor who is going to give them hope and let them know there is more in life than just being homeless,” Zach said. “They mentor these people and a lot of these families were able to get jobs and get apartments and become very successful and not be homeless.” “Landlords have said if it’s a filthy house, then they won’t put up with it,” Zach said. “If I have someone coming in who says they are being evicted, I look at everything of why they say they’re being evicted.” Zach said if it’s something that a legal aide can assist with, then she gives them contact information. Kayla Singletary/Daily News “Then there are some people who choose to be home- The Salvation Army Captain Janelle Cleaveland talks with a family in need during a recent less,” Zach said. “They don’t want to follow the rules, and event.
LIFE ON THE BRINK
www.newtondailynews.com | Wednesday | Nov. 22, 2017
Jamee A. Pierson/Daily News Remnants of items formerly housed in an apartment dumped on the side of the road are a common occurrence at many of the apartment buildings on North 11th Avenue East. Often the only housing available, many of the low income options are riddled with bugs, crime and more.
HOUSING STRUGGLES DOMINATE THOSE IN NEED By Jamee A. Pierson Newton Daily News In the blink of an eye — that’s how quick a person can find themselves moved from a comfortable housing situation to the streets in search of a roof to put over their head. Whether poor living conditions, issues with neighbors, a domestic violence situation or conflicts between a tenant and landlord, a large number of people in Newton have found themselves in need of a suitable place to live. Further, even if housing is found, not all dwellings provide the safe, clean standards any person desires to live in. Hannah Cook found this out first hand earlier this year. In one night, she and her four children were moved out of their house and found themselves with no place to go following a domestic violence situation. She and her children would remain homeless for nearly two months. “I was in a domestic situation where I basically got thrown out on the streets with four kids with nowhere to go, like overnight, in an instant,” Cook said. Cook was in contact with domestic violence advocates and was told a housing option was available for her family, but it later fell through. At that time, Cook was forced to move to an domestic violence shelter in Oskaloosa. “I had to uproot my kids from school and then transfer them back out here. It was a horrible ordeal,” Cook said. “It is really bad not to have a place to live in this town because there are no resources or anyone to help you.” After timing out of the shelter, Cook found herself living between friends in Des Moines while still trying to travel to Newton for her job. Her children lived with her in Oskaloosa and then moved in with family members while she was in Des Moines. “Their grades dropped tremendously when we were homeless. It really, really took a toll on those kids,” Cook said. “Behavior wise, everything wise, they became different people, really withdrawn. They were not doing good in school at all. They were getting in fights. When we got back to Newton everything started getting better for them again. They started getting better grades.” During this time, Cook applied for Central Iowa Regional Housing Authority’s Section 8 housing but was put on a waiting list. Another challenge she found was the ability to get mail while she didn’t have a permanent address. Because of that, she didn’t receive a letter from CIRHA and missed her opportunity to begin the application process. Even if Cook would have received the letter, she would have had to find transportation to Grimes to take part in an interview process to receive the assistance. “If you can’t find a way to go to Dallas County, you have to go two counties away to get housing assistance in this county,” Cook said. “It is almost impossible.” Section 8 through CIRHA provides services to a six-county region including Jasper County. To take part in the program, families are responsible for locating a unit that is eligible for the program. The family pays rent to the landlord based on between 30 to 40 percent of the family’s gross monthly adjusted income and CIRHA forms a contract with the landlord to pay the difference directly to the landlord.
In Jasper County, 134 vouchers are in use through Section 8, with a majority of those being used in Newton, CIRHA executive director Marcy Conner said. Conner said that number has been steady the past few years. For the six-county region, 1,008 vouchers are available with no set number allowed per county. Cook said she is currently on a waiting list for the program, which with proper documentation, has a six month to one year wait list according to CIRHA. “I think I’ve been trying to get on Section 8 since January. It was one of the first things I did when I realized I was homeless and didn’t have anywhere to live,” Cook said. “When I did need it, I couldn’t get it. Even a single mom with four kids, there is nothing for me, even when I wasn’t making the money I am making.” After continuing to search for a place to live, Cook was blessed by a friend who was willing to co-sign with her for her current residence. Since then, she has started a new job and is keeping her family and personal priorities forefront in her life. Prior to her time without a home, Cook also had a few run-ins with substandard living. After leaving a house that was falling apart in Kellogg, Cook was facing a homeless situation when she got a hold of a landlord who said he has a three bedroom house available. Without looking at the house, Cook put down a deposit but was shocked to find out the actual condition of the residence. “It was a two bedroom with a rusted out bathtub. The back bedroom was actually a pantry, like a walk through hallway,” Cook said. “But I hadn’t looked at it, and I already gave him a deposit so I kind of made it work. The place was infested with bedbugs, and he would not do anything to treat it or take care of it.” Cook said she felt the landlord knew of her situation and took advantage of her but because he was the only person who would rent to her, she tried to make it work. At a September Newton City Council meeting, Newton Fire Marshal Mike Knoll voiced concerns about some subsidized housing. He referenced the condition of the units, housekeeping issues and instances of landlords taking advantage of those with few options as top problems facing the department on a regular basis. Knoll said he knows there are landlords in Newton who fit that bill but, for the most part, landlords are good. “We have 90 to 95 percent good landlords and tenants,” Knoll said. “We have that 5 to 10 percent that are problems and continue to be a problem. Overall, it is fairly good, you just have that group, like in everything, that we have issues with.” Knoll said the same issues tend to pop up over and over again. He said they come from both sides, the tenants and the landlords. “If the tenant doesn’t keep the unit, apartment clean, it moves to the other apartments in the rest of the building and that becomes an issue,” Knoll said. “It is a struggle for the landlord to get rid of them. It has to be a community effort between the landlord and tenant to keep the units clean. If the tenant doesn’t keep it clean, it goes to the rest of the building.” On the same note, Knoll has found at some properties that accept Section 8 assistance or low income housing, landlords do not keep up
“I think I’ve been trying to get on Section 8 since January. It was one of the first things I did when I realized I was homeless and didn’t have anywhere to live.” — Hannah Cook Newton woman
the properties as well as if it were market rate apartments. He has also found the landlords can be more hesitant to rent to those who need assistance. “Some, yes are really hesitant,” Knoll said. “If they do a proper background check, like they are supposed to do, they would be very hesitant of what they find of where the potential tenant is at. Then there are others who know they can get income very easily with them. It is a combination of the two.” Currently, the city is on a two-year rotation for apartment inspections. Some landlords, though, request an annual inspection because of problems in the past. As for the quality of rental housing in Newton, Knoll said the ratio follows the same line as good landlords in Newton. About 90 percent of the units are quality with about 10 percent having repeat issues. Local landlord Fred Rhodes, who formerly served as the president of the Central Iowa Property Association, said most landlords are trying to protect their investments. “We’re not trying to be mean, I know landlords get a bad rap, and I know there are some bad ones out there, but we are trying to protect our investment,” Rhodes said. “Rental property isn’t a real profitable business. If we go to losing a months rent, that is a lot of money. Then we have to find the money somewhere to make up for that.” Rhodes has 17 properties in Newton and currently only accepts Section 8 assistance on a very special basis. He said his reason is because of the additional paperwork involved takes up too much time and house rentals is not his full-time job. Rhodes said he tries to give assistance to people, even going as far as purchasing a home so a family would not get kicked out. Another way he works to improve the rental environment is Newton is through the Central Iowa Property Association. The association, which meets once a month in either Newton or Marshalltown, provides a space for landlords and managers to discuss issues they face and become more educated on codes and laws surrounding the business. “It is the best thing that I do in this business,” Rhodes said. “It has made the difference between having good places for people do stay and being able to deal properly with them so we make more money and they have a better place to stay.” HOUSING | 9C
LIFE ON THE BRINK
www.newtondailynews.com | Wednesday | Nov. 22, 2017 | 9C
Housing: ‘I got stuck over there ... then I moved out and became homeless’ Continued from Page 8C As for the rental landscape in Newton, Rhodes said, for landlords, finding the right tenants is half of the battle. He said conducting background checks, which are technically a requirement, help weed out those tenants who may have past records or previous issues at rental properties. “If they follow the rules and do their investigations before they rent to them and find out what they have done in the past, Section 8 is not the problem,” Rhodes said. “It’s their history and how they have taken care of property and paid their bills in the past.” The amount of damage a tenant can do to a property in a short period of time is often enough to shy away some landlords from renting to anyone with a history. “In the association, we stress, they are going to do the same thing to you that the did to the last place,” Rhodes said. “So many landlords, they do not have enough of an education to understand that. When we have educated landlords, we are going to have better tenants in town. If everybody did it we would have a lot better situation.” Rhodes is aware that some landlords do accept Section 8 housing assistance because of the steady income. He did not know the condition of the units from those landlords or
Jamee A. Pierson/Daily News Newton woman Hannah Cook stands in front of a local apartment building she and her children lived in while trying to stay off of the streets. The apartment, Cook said, was riddled with bed bugs, cockroaches and unsafe spaces, forcing her to find other options.
if there is more or less attention paid to them. “I don’t know that it is a difference. It doesn’t matter where they get the money from, it matters what their habits are,” Rhodes said. “I’ve seen people without that were terrible and I’ve seen people
with it that were terrible and the same with the other side.” Newton citizen Herb McSparen found himself in a poor rental situation after having to move out of his family home. McSparen only lived in his apartment on North 11th Avenue East for a few months
before making the choice to become homeless rather than stay in the bad situation. “It was just full of druggies, thieves, noises. I don’t like noise,” McSparen said. “It was bad. The guy upstairs from me did meth, kept me up all night. I can’t sleep during the day with all of the noise going on. I got stuck over there for a while, then I moved out and became homeless.” McSparen said the police were at the apartment com— Herb McSparen plex frequently. After findNewton man ing some friends in the area,
“It’s really tough for low-income people to try to make it.
McSparen decided to “go to bat” and turn in those he was having issues with, but soon found he was on his own in the battle. “They all got scared and it was just me and I couldn’t fight alone. I just couldn’t take it anymore,” McSparen said. It was at that point, McSparen moved out of the apartment and into his car, before staying in a friend’s garage when the weather turned cold. McSparen hasn’t worked for more than 20 years due to medical issues and depends greatly on The Salvation Army for assistance. “I just depend on the Salvation Army for help and do what I can,” McSparen said. “I was in my car for a while and then it got cold and I didn’t feel safe where I was parking. Then I moved into the garage with a small wood heater and tried to stay as warm as possible on a concrete floor and sleeping bag.” A couple months into the stay, a friend was in contact with a local landlord who had a property for McSparen. He was able to get back his CIRHA Section 8 assistance, after losing it when he became homeless and has since created a home for himself and his dog. “It is really tough for low-income people to try to make it,” McSparen said.
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ON THE BRINK
www.newtondailynews.com | Wednesday | Nov. 22, 2017
‘Being homeless is not a crime’
Anthony Victor Reyes/Daily News Newton Police Department Officer Zach Walker checks out an abandoned homeless camp last weekend. The NPD said it has received 57 calls regarding the homeless in 2017. The majority of interactions with the homeless are related to calls for service.
Law enforcement first responders to homeless issue
By Anthony Victor Reyes Newton Daily News
eing homeless is not a crime. But in small towns with few resources and facilities, law enforcement officers are often the first people who are called to deal with the homeless community. According to the local law enforcement agencies, many of the homeless they encounter deal with substance abuse or mental illness issues. But due to the lack of resources and homeless facilities that come with small town living, the public safety officials said they find themselves simply asking the homeless to leave the area or arrest them for a crime and release them back to the streets 48 to 72 hours later. This results in a homeless community in need of assistance. “It becomes a revolving door where law enforcement is becoming the first responders to mental health, substance abuse, homelessness and the social problems that come with it,” Newton Police Chief Rob Burdess said. “Those issues are traditionally assigned to a psychologist, psychiatrists, people of that nature. Law enforcement has not been geared up to do these things and don’t have the staffing to adequately handle this.” According to Burdess, in the last five years, the city has focused on dealing with dilapidated structures, from abandoned homes to low-income apartments. He said when these buildings were removed, housing options were unavailable, forcing some people to no longer have a home and live on the streets. With the addition of the economic challenges of the Great Recession and the closure of Maytag, the police chief said crime in Newton went up. He said over the years, the city, county and state organizations widdled down on the issues, dropping crime significantly since the mid-2000s. Although they said crime has gone down, many of the possible victims of the economic fallout find themselves struggling with a variety of issues, and law enforcement are typically the first to connect them with the resources they may need. “That is what you see in a lot of homeless people, mental health and substance abuse. So when the resources aren’t there, it is very difficult for these people to get back on their feet,” Burdess said. “We are really trying to get to the root of the problem and get them the help they can.” According to the Jasper County Sheriff ’s Office and NPD, it is difficult to identify who is homeless is in Jasper County with panhandling not typical in the area and the nearest homeless shelter about a 30-minute drive away. The officers said some people they arrest claim to be homeless in an attempt to avoid a follow-up, while others who are homeless may give them an address where they no longer live. For these reasons, a true number of Jasper County homeless is not available. Despite the lack of a concrete population amount, the law enforcement leaders said the
homeless population their officers deal with is small. They said their officers know many on a first name basis and understand their tendencies. They also received training on how to interact with people who deal with substance abuse and mental illness, to potentially help connect them with some resources to help break them out of the cycle. “Several years ago, we were one of the first agencies who were trained with mental health first-aid, which is sort of an across the board training on how to communicate and assess people who may be in crisis with a combination of mental health and substance abuse, or one or the other,” Jasper County Sheriff John Halferty said. “We know them. They know our deputy’s names. They have a relationship where they can communicate with each other ... we don’t discourage our staff if they want to do something additional ... we allow those officers to do that with their individual discretion.” Although the officers can identify many of the local homeless, law enforcement officials said they typically only interact with this community when reported by a concerned citizen or during regular patrols around the area. The agencies said they do not search for potential homeless camps hidden throughout town. Although actions may differ from officer to officer, some the NPD enforcers said they also try not to stop anyone unless there is a cause for concern, as such actions may make the recipient feel harassed. The law enforcement officials said this inadvertently set up an authoritative relationship between the homeless population and police, with the homeless community normally interacting with the officers under not ideal circumstances. The officers said this may prevent them from connecting the homeless with organizations and resources that could help. “Usually, they don’t want to talk to police,” NPD officer, Zach Walker said. “The people who I am thinking of probably have been arrested for something before. That is not a pleasant experience.” The Newton police officer since 2013 said the addition of mental health issues and substance abuse causes further setbacks. “There is a woman in town that is kind of homeless and is bouncing around. She has some substance abuse and mental health issues. We were called in because she was fighting with people and acting suspicious. When I talked to her, I was trying to figure something out. She obviously she wasn’t staying anywhere. She was sleeping in the park,” Walker said. “I asked her if we could get her some treatment and she did not want anything to do with it ... you can’t help someone if they don’t want help.” Newton Police Department has had 57 calls involving homeless population so far in 2017. “That is not necessarily the calls where they are committing a crime. These are just calls from concerned people, or they found somebody suspicious and they are calling us to check in on it,” he said. “We don’t seek them out and go check and say, ‘Are you OK?’ This is not a daily or weekly thing we do.” With the department handling 17,000 calls a year, he said while responding to these calls
and providing services for the homeless population is a priority, there are only so many resources NPD can spare. “If they are not committing a crime, we just kind of leave them where they are at and let them go on their way,” Burdess said. “Our resources in town are really responsive. If we call The Salvation Army, they are there in 20 minutes. We rely on our resources in town ... that starts the chain reaction of getting them services if they need it.” The Jasper County Salvation Army typically interacting with law enforcement two to three times a month. When asked for assistance, this organization uses their funds to provide an overnight stay in a hotel, if needed, and any other service that person may need may need. “We try to work together and do what we can for the community,” said Capt. Janelle Cleaveland, of The Salvation Army in Newton. “We are not out there 24-hours a day like the police are. It is beneficial for them to work with us so that we can help those in need in our community because we might not always see those people.” Cleaveland said due to the lack of homeless shelters and other facilities in Jasper County, The Salvation Army funds hotel rooms for homeless who are in need of a place to stay. “I have at least one (homeless person) a week. So far, I haven’t had any problems,” Darshna Darji, owner of the Mid-Iowa Motel said. “The homeless stay, check out, return the key and leave ... I have been in business since 2011, and I have had Salvation Army send me a lot of homeless people and I have never had any problems.” Many of the businesses in the community said the homeless population rarely cause problems at their establishments. But when law enforcement does get involved, they said it is handled promptly, swiftly and without confrontation. “The frequency is probably once every three months. It is not an everyday thing,” Auzzad Farooq, owner of New Star convenience store in Newton said. “We tell them to leave the place, and most of the time, they leave ... We always see law enforcement patrolling and they are always checking to see if everything is find. We are satisfied with that.” Burdess said there were talks about developing a homeless liaison for Newton Police Department. But with a variety of other issues and the need for assistance in surrounding towns, both departments said they will increase their personal resources toward the homeless issue as it develops. “If it comes to the point where we see a huge increase, then we will work with the other agencies and resources in whatever role they needed us to fill,” Halferty said. The law enforcement leaders said when it comes to solving any issue Jasper County faces, it is important for all the organizations and community members to work together. “To me, I think our community would be much better off if they volunteer their time and service to help in those needed areas, whether it be homelessness, substance abuse or mental health,” the sheriff said. “Instead of criticizing someone for being homeless, what can we do to help these people out and make the community a better place.”
LIFE ON THE BRINK
www.newtondailynews.com | Wednesday | Nov. 22, 2017 | 11C
Help for the Homeless The Salvation Army 301 N. Second Ave. E. Newton, IA 641-792-6131 In addition to its food pantry and bread and produce distribution the local nonprofit provides many services including rent and utility assistance, prescription payment aid, referrals to area providers, clothing vouchers and much more. Food Pantries in Jasper County The Salvation Army 301 N. Second Ave. E. Newton, Iowa 641-792-6131 Open from 10 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. On the first visit, bring an ID and piece of mail from your current household. Homeless are asked to provide a written statement of where they are staying and others who are staying there. Grace Church of Newton 1620 N. 11 Ave. E. Newton, Iowa Food pantry open on Monday mornings. Berg Middle School 1900 N. Fifth Ave. E. Newton, Iowa 641-792-7742 Berg Middle School has a food pantry that can be used by any family who has children attending the Newton Community School District. PCM Food Pantry 641-259-2657 For families living in the Reasnor,
Friends in Hope
Monroe and Prairie City area. The pantry is open from 9 a.m. to noon and 6 to 7 p.m. Mondays and 9 a.m. to noon on Thursdays. East Jasper County Food Pantry is open on Saturday mornings at Kellogg Food Pantry. Contact person is Richard 641-521-4235. People from Kellogg, Lynnville, and Sully may use that pantry. Colfax Food Pantry Hours unknown 515-674-4335 Baxter Food Pantry Hours unknown 641-227-3182 IMPACT Personal Pantry 641-792-3008 Qualifying clients can use the pantry once every 90 days for soap, shampoo, cleaning supplies, toilet paper, dish soap and more. Other Meals Two churches hold hot suppers in Newton during the week. Dinner on Tuesdays, 5 p.m. Tuesdays Christian Life Church, 421 S. Second Ave. W. in the church basement. Free Supper, 5 p.m. Wednesday First United Methodist Church, 210 N. Second Ave. E. in the church basement. Residents over the age of 60 years old can also receive Polk County Commodities, after filling out an application and receiving a letter of acceptance. Applications available at The Salvation Army. This box of food contains cereal, juice, canned meats, canned fruits and canned vegetables and a block of cheese.
Founded by Robyn Taylor and Marilyn Turlouw Friends in Hope is focused on providing need-based assistance community members in crisis. Volunteers at Friends in Hope work with the needy in a one on one mentoring environment, helping with a variety of tasks. For more information contact Director Linda Curtis-Stolper at 641-840-2417 or find them on Facebook.
Residents over the age of 60 can also receive meals on wheels through Jasper County Elderly Nutrition. 641-7927102 Snap benefits (formerly food stamps) may be applied at the DHS office on the second floor of the Annex building 641-792-1955 Shelters There are no shelters in Jasper County and no vouchers to stay at a motel if you are short-term or long-term homeless: All clients are referred to the following shelters: • Bethel Mission 1310 Sixth Avenue Des Moines 515-244-5445 • Hope Family Shelter 3333 E. University Des Moines 515-264-0144 • Central Iowa Shelter 1420 Mulberry Street Des Moines 515-284-5719 Telephone Everyone who receives some sort of state benefit qualifies for a free cell phone with text and limited talk time. The Salvation Army hosts a person who assists in applying for this service during the breadline the first Tuesday of the month. Energy Assistance IMPACT can assist with a part of heating bills, cooling bills and pay for some weatherization or low-cost home repairs that may lower monthly energy bills. 641-792-3008 Goodwill Career Connection Center DMACC Newton 600 N. 2 Avenue West, Room 241 Newton, Iowa 50208 Helps with cover letters, interviewing, Interviewing technique, network-
Neighbors Helping Neighbors
When David Goos realized that homelessness was a problem in Newton he started organizing members of the downtown churches to gather support for a homeless day center in Newton. Volunteers continue to work towards that goal to this day, and recently the group staged it’s first laundry night, inviting needy residents into a local laundromat and allowing them wash their clothes for free. David Goos can be reached at 641-521-8367 for those interested in volunteering with the group.
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ing, career exploration, resume building, office and typing classes and host many hiring events. Jasper County General Assistance 115 N 2nd Avenue E Newton, IA 50208 641-791-2609 Mental Health Financial Assistance can be applied for at Jasper County General Assistance. You may choose your provider from four clinics. Discover Hope 517 Ministry 19 N. Second Ave. W. Newton, Iowa 641-841-0598 A faith-based ministry and addiction resource center dedicated to providing recovery and restoration for those struggling with addiction. The Pregnancy Center of Central Iowa 709 First Ave. W. Ste 1 Newton, IA 641-792-3050 Pregnancy tests, referral services, counseling, supplies and curriculum-based program to teach parenting skills to earn Mommy Money and Daddy Dollars to purchase baby items, furniture, car seats, clothing and diapers. School Clothing Closets Children in the Newton Community School District can go to their nurse, or guidance counselor if they are in need of winter coats, gloves and boots. The Middle School also has a clothing closet for the children who use the Middle School. Newton High School has a clothing resource in their school for students who need clothing, Cards House of Apparel.
The Salvation Army in Newton offers multiple ways for the community to get involved. Volunteering opportunities include assisting with the thrift store’s back room and organizing items, ringing bells during the holiday season, donating to the food pantry or donating monetarily. The Salvation Army also offers a Sunday service at 10:45 a.m. at the chapel, along with a new youth program. The Salvation Army also has an advisory board with more than 15 members who work to plan events and which meets monthly. Contact Janelle Cleaveland at 641-792-2684 for more information.
SHOP LOCAL THIS HOLIDAY SEASON
SHOP SMALL SATURDAY
Saturday, November 25 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
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www.newtondailynews.com | Wednesday | Nov. 22, 2017
Published on Nov 22, 2017