May 22, 2020
A new program fund administered by the Claude W. and Dolly Ahrens Foundation (CDAF) will support housing related needs for eligible Poweshiek County residents. The Poweshiek Housing Assistance Fund will provide those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness with support for rental deposits, utilities, legal documents needed to rent, or to reimburse landlords for related expenses.
The Housing Assistance Fund, established in March by CDAF, is an outcome of work done in fall 2019 by a coalition of local organizations and individuals who researched the growth of homelessness and related housing needs in the county.
Marilyn Kennett, director of Drake Community Library and a coalition leader, called the coalition’s work “a general movement” and that “the Housing Assistance Fund is an outcome of the coalition’s working toward a solution. This community is so generous about identifying a need, discussing issues, moving forward with response, and helping everyone get to the best solution,” Kennett said.
The 25-member coalition formed three task forces—mapping available resources, addressing transportation issues, and fundraising for anticipated needs–with representatives from the local schools, the library, the Institute for Community Alliances, Grinnell College, Greater Poweshiek Community Foundation, the Ahrens Foundation, and local social service agencies.
Julie Gosselink, CDAF president and CEO, said the coalition “conducted a county-wide survey of landlords and others involved in housing to understand the local issues and to determine the needs not covered by other sources.” Estimates indicate that nearly 900 individuals need affordable housing ($535 per month or lower) but only 40 units are currently available.
“There is about $100,000 in annual unmet housing need in the county, so our short-term goal is to fundraise half of that so we can begin to distribute soon,” Gosselink said. “The data shows a growing need, and we anticipate that with financial hardship created by the pandemic, the need will be greater, so we need to act now.”
To date, the Poweshiek Housing Assistance Fund has received seed money from CDAF and an Instant Impact grant from Greater Poweshiek Community Foundation, as well as individual contributions. Gosselink is seeking grants from other sources and said that two fundraisers for the housing assistance fund are in the planning stages. Members of the fund advisory committee are: Nicole Brua-Behrens, Shannon Fitzgerald, Susan Hiner, Jessica Margrave Schirm, and Gosselink.
Gifts to the Poweshiek Housing Assistance Fund may be made online at https://ahrensfamilyfoundation.org/partner-program-funds/ or mailed to CDAF at P.O. Box 284, Grinnell IA 50112.
The application process to the Housing Assistance Fund for individuals in need of housing assistance will be aligned with other local and federal housing authority processes and can also be made by social service agencies on behalf of individuals facing homelessness and housing financial hardship.
Application to the new fund may be made for assistance with rental deposits or back rent, utility bills related to obtaining housing, mitigating damage to a rental unit, obtaining related legal documents, or assistance with other circumstances related to obtaining housing.
Funding will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis and paid directly to landlords or public entities such as utility companies. An annual cap will be placed on grants so that available funds can be distributed equitably to those in need.
Questions about the Poweshiek Housing Assistance Fund application and funding process should be referred to firstname.lastname@example.org, 641-236-5518.