By Darrell Mayo, Veteran Advocate
During the extremely cold winter months in Sioux City, Iowa, the Warming Shelter opens its doors to the homeless with the help of generous donors from the Sioux City area. The Warming Shelter is open 24/7 from Nov. 1 until May 5 and then reopens again for the hot summer months during the afternoon hours to prevent our brothers and sisters who are experiencing homelessness from overheating due to heat exposure. The Warming Shelter is run by its Executive Director, Tessa Shanks, and only two to three other staff members. The Warming Shelter also has a board of directors that helps manage the funding given to the shelter. This shelter has functioned with no government support to maintain the ability to allow anyone and everyone to enter the shelter without meeting any sort of criteria. This is all thanks to the many charitable organizations including churches and individuals that give their time, supplies, meals, and other much needed donations.
The overnight shelter provides sleeping quarters for 80 males, 20 females, and has a family room that can hold up to 16 people. Along with a bed, those staying at the Warming Shelter are provided with access to a washer and dryer, shower and hygiene supplies, clean clothing, case management services, community resources, and transportation to the local soup kitchen during afternoon mealtime. The Warming Shelter also has a homeless program called, “Street Medicine” that works with other local providers to help individuals experiencing homelessness with minor medical needs such as bandages, aspirin, and other over-the-counter medications. The Warming Shelter also provides individuals in their care with laptops to use and a local cellular provider, Cricket Wireless, stops by to sell phones and services at extremely reduced prices for those staying at the shelter.
lcohol and drugs are not allowed at the shelter, but those suffering from addiction and who are under the effects of drugs and alcohol are not turned away from the Warming Shelter as long as they are not a safety concern. The Sioux City Police Department always provides an officer for the Warming Shelter to ensure that residents are behaving properly and to ensure that every resident and staff member is safe.
There are only two main homeless shelters in the Sioux City area. The Warming Shelter is the only homeless shelter in the Sioux City area that does not require residents to attend faith-based services and/or be completely sober or able to pass a drug and alcohol test to stay there. Due to a large number of the Sioux City’s homeless population being Native American and Somalian, some of those individuals find other sleeping arrangements during the spring, summer, and fall months due to religious reasons and will stay at the Warming Shelter during the winter months. The Warming Shelter is also the only other safe place available to members of the LGBTQIA+ community who are staying on the streets during the extremely cold winter months. The shelter also helps to prevent Sioux City’s homeless population from committing crimes in order to go to jail and ensure they do not die due to exposure. The Warming Shelter has done a wonderful job providing shelter, food, and hope to Sioux City’s unhoused individuals and families. We love our partnership and to be able to come in to provide case management services for the Veterans and their families that they serve!