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Story County organization working to help homeless people faces limited resources, high demand during storm

The Bridge Home works with people facing homelessness, but the organization says demand is high and resources are limited.

AMES, Iowa — Even before the storm rolled into Story County on Friday, The Bridge Home was getting calls for help from people facing homelessness.

"We can get people off of the off of the street, keep them safe, and get them out of the elements," said Jodi Stumbo, the organization's president and CEO.

Space at the shelter is limited, and it's one of the few places in Story County people can go if they need a place to stay. Demand also always goes up in the winter, especially during a storm.

"We're going to have to find additional space where we can put people," Stumbo said.

Ames Police Department has a hand in helping, too. Chief Geoff Huff said his officers try to be proactive.

"We try and locate people that are struggling with homelessness, especially the time of year like now when we either have snow or bitterly cold temperatures, and just try and get them hooked up with resources," Huff said.

That additional space usually means motel rooms scattered around he city. It's an immediate solution, and it's a costly one.

"It's going to double—double—our cost for the next three days," said Stumbo.

She said the long-term approach should be an overflow center that can be made available as needed.

"It's a much more efficient and effective and economical way to deal with the extreme weather that we see in Iowa," Stumbo said. "Unfortunately, we do not have that here in Story County."

She said the need is urgent. The Bridge Home served 2,500 people from July 2020 to June 2021. This year, the organization is on track the triple that.

The police department has seen the increase too.

"We've seen our homeless population really increase over the last couple of years. I think there's probably some COVID-related reasons for that," Huff said.

Regardless of the challenges, Stumbo said she will keep fighting for the community she sees as family.

"This job is the hardest job, but the best job I've ever had," she said.

Here are some ways you can connect with The Bridge Home:

WATCH | Snowfall picks up in central Iowa 

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