- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 13, 2018

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A Des Moines homeless shelter is planning to use repurposed shipping containers to construct permanent apartments for chronically homeless people.

The 24-unit project would be erected in the same drainage ditch where homeless people have set up camps.

Central Iowa Shelter and Services’ director Melissa O’Neil told the Des Moines Register that the shelter has applied for $2.7 million from the National Housing Trust Fund.

“We’ve got to think differently about what our role in the community is when it comes to serving those who are unsheltered and get people more quickly into permanent housing,” she said.

The number of people living on Des Moines streets more than doubled to 107 in 2017 from 52 in 2016, according to the Institute for Community Alliances.

Dozens of the metro’s chronically homeless moved onto a retention basin ditch in November, which sits within 100 feet of the homeless shelter. City officials had to evict the homeless groups twice.

John Sayles, a Beaverdale-based marketing professional and creator of vodka brand Swell, came up with the idea of creating a sculpture-like housing complex with shipping containers. He said he hopes to have local graffiti artists leave their artwork on the complex.

“Why do the homeless have to live in an eyesore?” Sayles said.

While re-purposing shipping containers into living spaces has become a national trend, it can be difficult to find ones that meet health standards, Michael Kiernan, former Iowa Democratic Party Chair and co-developer on the project. Jack Hatch, a former Democratic candidate for governor, is also a co-developer.

Kiernan said if suitable shipping containers aren’t found, the team will find material to mimic it. The structure could be built within the next 18 months, he said.

It’s unclear what guidelines will be set to determine who will qualify to live in the structures.


Information from: The Des Moines Register, http://www.desmoinesregister.com

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