Jul 15, 2021 - News

Des Moines' "radical" homeless pop-up village

A decommissioned bus in San Francisco that was transformed into a mobile shower unit for homeless people.

Decommissioned buses in San Francisco were refitted into mobile shower facilities for the homeless as part of the LavaMae Project. DSM is adopting the group's pop-up homeless village concept. Photo: Barbara Munker/picture alliance via Getty Images

A pop-up care village for DSM's homeless population will launch on the east side in coming weeks.

  • It's a one-stop shop where community groups and volunteers will offer food, clothing, showers and services like case management and substance abuse counseling.

Why it matters: There are more than 2,300 homeless people in Iowa on any given night. About 30% of them — almost 700 people — are in Polk County, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

  • Regular access to personal hygiene care and grooming like haircuts, as well as services like mail delivery, are key to helping homeless individuals find long-term housing and employment.

Driving the news: DSM approved $150K last month to pay for some of the Central Iowa Shelter & Services (CISS) program's startup costs.

  • About $120K is still needed to purchase a truck and a 29-foot trailer that will include mobile shower services, CISS CEO Melissa O'Neil told Jason this week.

Details: The village will be open three days a week at Harriet and Southeast 14th Streets.

  • That's near current homeless encampments, but on vacant city-owned property. The property is not near homes.

The intrigue: DSM's pop-up village is modeled after LavaMae, a program that started in San Francisco in 2014 and was described by founder Doniece Sandoval as "radical hospitality."

  • It's revolutionary because it raises the bar on how services are provided and radical because it's a level of care rarely extended to homeless people, Sandoval told Grommet.

What's next: Most pop-up services will begin within the next month, O'Neil said.

  • Shower services will begin once fundraising and acquisition of the trailer/truck are completed. That's expected to be around next spring.

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