MUSCATINE, Iowa–As a local leader in providing services for those facing homelessness, nearing homelessness, or working towards greater housing security, Muscatine Center for Social Action, or MCSA, had the honor of presenting to the regional Department of Housing and Urban Development Director early in 2021. Through this opportunity, the Iowa Council on Homelessness, a state committee focused on offering resources to organizations working to end homelessness and provide affordable housing, learned about MCSA’s work and invited them to speak to their council members as well as regional and state leaders near the start of the 2021 legislative session. Along with an array of their community partners, MCSA hosted a hybrid showcase of their work on Feb. 02.
MCSA Executive Director Scott Dahlke opened the showcase by sharing how MCSA adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic without sacrificing services. This entailed adapting the choice food pantry into a food bag pick up and delivery program for those in need of assistance. Additionally, their homeless shelter adapted to focus on finding new housing for families and individuals as quickly as possible, and redoubling the efforts of the homelessness prevention program, which helps those on the brink of homelessness overcome the difficulties keeping them from maintaining stable housing. As a precaution, MCSA has also developed an off site quarantine shelter, should they ever have a COVID-19 positive individual need housing assistance.
Even while working to adapt their operations to pandemic protocols, MCSA has kept investigating new ways to better serve the community. In the future, they hope to expand their affordable housing rental options to two properties they recently purchased and to continue to renovate and maintain MCSA’s main building.
After Dahlke gave this overview, several other leaders from partner organizations took the time to share how their work intersects with MCSA’s mission, and how together they provide long term solutions to issues facing the community, such as a lack of affordable housing, the need for more skilled workers, and mental health concerns. These representatives included Community Foundation of Greater Muscatine Executive Director Charla Schafer, Muscatine Mayor and Muscatine Community Y Family Services Director Diana Broderson, UnityPoint Trinity Muscatine Hospital Chief Human Resources Officer Angie Johnson, Director of Community Development Jodi Royal-Goodwin, Muscatine Police Department Lieutenant Vince Motto, and Muscatine Community College President Naomi DeWinter.
Throughout the approximately one hour presentation, these partners highlighted several important community collaborations. Shafer explained how the Community Foundation helped fund some of MCSA’s earliest developments as well as its more recent additions, such as the UnityPoint Trinity wellness clinic on their lower level. Johnson went into greater depth about how the wellness center synergizes with the food pantry and dental clinics to help people access as many services as possible. Motto discussed how MCSA helped law enforcement find appropriate resources for people experiencing crises or mental health emergencies for people who could have otherwise ended up in jail. Naomi DeWinter discussed how rapid job training programs have adapted to meet the needs of MCSA residents, and Broderson and Royal-Goodwin discussed the city’s collaboration to prevent homelessness and help people find sustainable living situations.
Members of the Iowa Council on Homelessness, as well as Representative Mark Cisneros received the community reports about MCSA warmly. “What I’m hoping we can do is to use the model you developed to help other Iowans,” said Council Member Tim Wilson.