DES MOINES, Iowa — The homeless population across the United States grew for a fourth year in a row in 2020, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
That increase was also seen in the metro, Joppa CEO and Founder Joe Stevens told Local 5.
"When COVID hit it really exacerbated the situation because a lot of people had been laid off and now they just can't afford the housing," he said.
For quite a few people, COVID-19 forced them to become homeless for the first time.
"The Institute for Community Alliances would tell us that there are 650 homeless people on any given day here in Polk County," Stevens said. "What we know from our own survey is that one in three are [experiencing] first-time homeless[ness]."
To help the areas growing homeless population, Joppa will be opening a Homeless Resource Center.
The center is equipped with an area for people to refill their water bottles, get food, make a phone call and even charge their phone.
And with everything moving online during the pandemic, the resource center has included computers with webcams, so those who frequent the center have a chance to have job interviews with employers.
"It's kind of a one-stop-shop where people can come to, and find out what resources are available to help them," Stevens said.
Adding a resource center to help the homeless is not all Joppa is doing.
The CEO said with the rising homeless population, they are expanding their outreach teams. These are groups of people who go out once a week and deliver goods and other necessities to those living on the streets.
The teams are in need of supplies like water, non-perishable food items and sunscreen. To find a list of more goods the organization needs and how to donate, click here.
The Homeless Resource Center is scheduled to open sometime this summer and Stevens said when it does, he hopes it makes a dent toward "ultimately end[ing] homelessness."