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Personalized paths to stability from Willis Dady Homeless Services

Inside these pages are some of the people whose lives have been touched by Willis Dady and who in turn have touched ours.


Emergency Shelter With Case Management


Homeless Prevention


Supportive Housing


Rapid Re-Housing


Street Outreach


Overflow Shelter


Evictions and Affordable Housing


New Initiatives

You might see them sitting in a public place during the daytime. But you might not realize that people experiencing homelessness are around you. They could be your co-workers, your cashier at the grocery store, your child’s best playmate or your or your mother’s nurse aid. We see them at Willis Dady Homeless Services — or we meet them on the streets — and we listen to their stories. Each situation is unique and requires a personalized path to stability. The causes of homelessness are complex, but there are solutions. Willis Dady depends on the generosity of people like you to help individuals and families find their way home — to write a happy ending for each story. Your gift can restore a Veteran’s dignity, get a man back on his feet or give children their own back yard where they can freely play.

Illness and misfortune are part of life. The difference is that some people do not have a support system or a financial cushion. They are simply at a loss.

Phoebe Trepp, Executive Director Willis Dady Homeless Services

I was staying with my friend but got sick and ended up in the hospital. I can’t go back to my friend’s and I can’t stay in the hospital. A safe place to lay your head. It’s the core, the absolute heart and soul of what we do. Shelter is often the last place before hitting rock bottom and the first step on the road home. The difference here is that no one is alone. A caring and experienced case manager supports clients on their individual paths. Positive, skills-based coaching with accountability helps clients go from shelter to stable housing. All who stay with us are welcome, but shelter is not a long-term housing plan. That’s why stays are limited to 30 days. It is a safe but temporary stop along the road with a case manager to guide you from shelter to housing.

I turned 19 and my foster mom dropped me off. 03

We moved here for my job six weeks ago, but we can’t afford the security deposit, so we’re staying in a motel.

I need to move out. There’s illegal activity and I don’t think my kids are safe.

With the only Homeless Prevention program in Linn County, Willis Dady saves people from entering the shelter system. Often we can reverse an impending eviction by setting up a payment plan or by mediating a conflict. Sometimes it’s a matter of $100. Sometimes it’s simply a miscommunication. We step in to offer alternatives. If moving is the only choice, we maintain a list of property owners who will work with low-income

Coordinated Entry is a resource and referral system for people in a housing crisis. When someone calls Shelter Services at 319-366-7999, they answer questions to determine next steps: referral to Prevention Outreach or placement in any area shelter. Working together with 50+ agencies through the local Continuum of Care, we provide expert, comprehensive services better than any single agency could provide alone.

tenants or those with challenging backgrounds, such as a poor credit history or criminal records. Sometimes we can provide small amounts of cash to help with a security deposit or rent. Prevention stems a tide of individuals and families who otherwise would enter an emergency shelter or remain in unsafe living conditions with violent or illegal activity.


For most Iowans who experience homelessness, it’s a first-time occurrence. But for about 20%, it’s an ongoing struggle. Very low income, plus a chronic mental or physical condition and sometimes a substance use disorder, make it tough to  live independently. A few missed doses of medication can lead to missing rent, then eviction. If there’s no support system in place, the cycle begins: eviction, homelessness, emergency room visits and brushes with the law. With each eviction, fewer landlords are willing to rent their properties. The solution is Supportive Housing— affordable rent with access to on-going case management. Case management brings stability and prevents cycling through community support systems. Feeling safe hastens better self-care practices, improved

Sometimes my buddies and I drink to stay warm, and then I get in trouble with the police.

The last time I got evicted, I was off my meds. I couldn’t get a ride to get the prescription renewed.

health and outlook. Then comes confidence to overcome substance abuse and repair broken family relationships. There is no time limit. It’s their home for as long as they like and abide by the lease. Supportive Housing is the most cost-effective way to help those who are vulnerable to repeat homelessness.

Can you remember the last time you moved into an apartment? Amid the excitement of a new beginning were considerable expenses: security deposit and first month’s rent (and sometimes a second month) and increasingly there may be deposits for utilities. For those with little income or who exhausted funds before homelessness, saving hundreds of dollars can delay the journey home. Moving into housing should not put someone in a precarious position where they are again at risk of financial collapse and eviction. The solution is Rapid Re-Housing. Small amounts of temporary rental assistance ease the burden of moving in. Case management from Willis Dady during this critical transition helps people get on their feet sooner and stay that way.

This may be hard to imagine, but living on the street can be more comfortable than staying in a homeless shelter. The street is safer than returning to an abusive relationship or a home filled with drugs and violence. Many folks we meet on the streets are reluctant to seek help. Some think others are in greater need than they. Mental illness is prevalent — paranoia, for example, and not feeling safe in a confined area around other people. Some people have been dismissed from all shelters due to aggressive behavior. Through Street Outreach, Willis Dady connects  with those who may not desire services right now, or who may not know they qualify. We build relationships, offer information and make referrals where appropriate. If and when clients are ready to take the next step — whatever that step is, toward housing or simply for more information — we’ll be there as a trusted advocate. Our role in outreach is to stay in contact until a person is ready for help.


You can’t help me. No one has. I’ve been on the streets since 2008.

I’m claustrophobic. You’re not getting me in a shelter. I’ll stay here in my tent.

I’ve already been kicked out of every shelter. The last time I was homeless, my so-called friends stole my stuff.

In winter, the average low temperature in Cedar Rapids is a chilly 18 degrees. Sleeping outside — even in your vehicle — is deadly. Where do you turn when all shelters are full, or if your normal habit is to sleep in your car or in a tent? Since the winter of 2015-16, our community has operated a life-saving shelter during the coldest months. The Overflow, as it’s known, is the work of more than 15 organizations, including Willis Dady, which provides staffing and fiduciary oversight.  The Overflow offers overnight shelter to anyone experiencing homelessness from November to March. The Overflow is a true community partnership that involves representatives from the following sectors: faith, government, housing, shelters, meal sites, medical, mental health, public safety and transportation. Working together, we avoid duplication of services and protect life and limb from these dangerous winter conditions.

Eviction unleashes a cascade of instability. It damages credit and often begins the chaos and crisis of homelessness. There’s a risk of family break-up or increased conflict. The struggle and expense of finding new housing: security deposit, first month’s rent, re-activating utilities and other chores necessary to move. That’s why Homeless Prevention is so valuable. It benefits property owners as well as tenants. If we can help an otherwise good tenant get back on track, the landlord can maintain steady income without the expense or delay to find a new renter.

Here’s a sample budget for one person living on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).

Rent: $450* Utilities: $80 Food: $200 Phone: $50 + Transportation: $25


Financial experts recommend that rent or mortgage payments should consume no more than 30% of income. A household paying more than 30% income toward rent is “cost-burdened,” while more than 50% is “severely cost-burdened.”


The typical price of a 1 bedroom or efficiency apartment in Cedar Rapids is $450. This leaves little cushion for food, utilities or medical expenses.

Here’s a few of the ideas we are considering: • Access to health services through partnerships • Increased employment opportunities Each case of homelessness is unique. However, there are common barriers shared by many of our clients. Willis Dady is committed to meeting people right where they are and seeing them through to stability. With the firm footing of a new building underneath us, we are excited to take on new challenges that can better help our clients find home and stay there.

• Deeper partnerships with the VA to serve homeless veterans • Access to reliable transportation • Collaborations to reduce eviction rates • Expanded connections with colleges and universities for specific, skilled internships

We welcome your partnership in this important work!

Together we can help individuals and families find their way to a safe and stable home. Every story of homelessness has a solution and you can help.

Design: Nikki Dautremont. Photography: Impact Photography. Writing: Lisa Williams.

Solutions to Homelessness from Willis Dady Homeless Services