Homeless in a college town: Iowa City’s homelessness epidemic

Alyssa Smith, Social Media Manager

As students stumble home from the bars, bodies flush from the copious amount of alcohol they consumed, the homeless watch, shivering from underneath their coats and sleeping bags. 

This is a scene University of Iowa students know all too well, as they encounter homeless people on the daily, just steps away from campus. 

Iowa City is suffering from a homelessness epidemic. 

The University of Iowa has students from all walks of life, some themselves struggling to pay rent, others having no financial burdens thanks to their parents. Regardless of their background, it is almost inevitable that one day in downtown Iowa City they will be asked for spare change to help the homeless. 

Iowa City is located in Johnson County where 16 percent of the population lives in poverty. Although Scott County has 20,000 more people, their poverty percentage is 11.8 percent. Iowa City alone has a whopping 27.6 poverty percentage. 

This may come as a shock to students who are from communities that do not experience as high rates of homelessness. Noah Humprhies is a PV alum and now a student at the 

University of Iowa. “It was surprising; it is similar to downtown Chicago in terms there is a homeless person at almost every corner,” Humprhies said. It is no question that the streets of Iowa City look a lot different than Bettendorf’s. 

This homeless population often leaves new students bewildered. It is obviously not advertised on the university’s emails and letters, so those coming from far away do not expect to see so many homeless people in Iowa City. 

For others, seeing a big homeless population is no surprise. Cathleen Zyblut is a student at the University of Iowa and is originally from Aurora, Illinois. “Aurora and Naperville had aro

und the same amount of homeless people so it wasn’t surprising, and growing up going to downtown Chicago I saw homeless people all the time,” she said.

The issue has only grown as a result of the pandemic. “I think the pandemic has contributed to the amount of homelessness and also the increase in cost of living lately,” Zyblut explained. If college students are already struggling to find housing, it is even harder for the homeless. 

Many wonder what is going on to help solve this crisis. The Iowa City community is working endlessly to give back.

Shelter House is an organization that provides homeless people with housing. They originated in a single house in Iowa City and has since expanded to an emergency shelter along with 47 permanent housing units. that provides homeless people with housing. They recently started their second permanent housing first project which provides permanent and accessible housing to the homeless.

This organization is the backbone of homeless housing in Iowa City, not only providing shelter and permanent housing, but also a chance for homeless people to improve their lives and get back on their feet. 

Although efforts are being made to solve this crisis, it is far from over as the Iowa City homelessness epidemic rages on.