Almost Home, Almost Out: Volunteering at a Dubuque shelter

DUBUQUE, IA – This time of year, many people start thinking about what they can do to aid the poor and homeless. A local homeless shelter is sending out the call for assistance, since it is experiencing difficulties in providing services.

Located next to St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in downtown Dubuque, the Almost Home Shelter provides services for homeless men. In addition to providing a roof over their heads and warm beds, the shelter also contains a functioning laundry facility, and other services which allow homeless men to work at finding new homes and decent work. The shelter also contains The Open Closet, a secondhand clothing store open to all kinds of people in need. Almost Home serves anywhere around ninety homeless per year, while The Open Closet serves hundreds in the Dubuque area a month.

Due to an increase in need, the shelter expanded its months of operation and its daily schedule to aid the homeless. Opening on September 13th of this year, the shelter plans to remain in service until May 2018. It is hoped that this increased time period will allow the shelter to serve more people, and give them a better opportunity to find a job or continue their education.

However, the facility currently needs more volunteers. The lack of adequate staffing means that the organization can’t operate at its full effectiveness.

Executive Director Gwen Kirchhof (Kirk-off) encourages people in the community to give to help those in need. While monetary, clothing, and food donations are appreciate, the shelter is really looking for more volunteers. She said, “It makes you feel good, and not only feel good, but I think it opens up your eyes to what is really happening in our neighborhoods, our downtown neighborhoods…”

The lack of help does not stop the progress of the shelter, however. Currently, the beds are all in one common room. In order to better accommodate those who are working towards education and employment, new rooms are being constructed. Kirchhof hopes that these new rooms will allow individuals to have enough privacy to work towards furthering their education and finding new employment. She believes that the shelter will continually work to provide services, even with the difficulties in finding volunteers.

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Levi Bernhard is currently a senior student at Loras College. He originally hails from St. Benedict, a small town near Algona, Iowa. Levi is a reporter and crew member for LCTV News, and helps contribute stories to productions. A couple years ago, he worked as an intern at Kossuth Regional Health Center, recording and editing videos. This past January, he went on a travel January Term course to Greece, where he helped create a couple of short documentaries about the country. He enjoys being in media studies because he likes the concepts of telling stories to wide audiences, and working with a variety of technology. He is also in media studies because he has a dream of becoming a filmmaker.

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