In frigid weather, shelter for eastern Iowans without a place to stay is more important than ever.
Just this week, one renovated facility in Dubuque re-opened its doors. The shelter, called the Guesthouse, is located at and operated by St. John's Lutheran Church. With eight beds - soon to expand to 12 - it serves as an overflow shelter when the Dubuque Rescue Mission can't take in any more men.
Few people can understand the men's situations like Guesthouse coordinator Richard Mockmore, Sr.
"I was homeless when I was younger and for two years I spent in a cardboard box sleeping above a Subway staying warm." Mockmore said Friday at the Guesthouse. "Like I tell these guys, they're not alone."
Mockmore said he hopes to help these men in whatever way he can, especially by being an example of someone who can arrive at a better place in life.
"I've lived it, I've breathed it. I've walked it. I've talked it. I'm a recovering alcoholic of 27 years. Only but for the grace of God go I," Mockmore said. "I know today I can look myself in the mirror. Not too many years ago I couldn't stand the sight of myself."
Guesthouse advisory board member Alysia Hedrick said with these cold temperatures and hard economic times, the need is great.
"There are other shelters [in Dubuque] that are available to women and children, but those are not available to men, so we saw the need to have someplace other than the rescue mission that would allow men to come stay," she said.
The Guesthouse opened last winter but hit a problem.
"The city came in a decided - and found - that we were not within fire code for sleeping quarters," Hedrick said.
After nearly $100,000 in renovations - including a sprinkler system, new smoke detectors and emergency backup exit lights - the Guesthouse re-opened this week with beds, hot showers and a laundry facility.
Hedrick said it moves her that a congregation so small - St. John's has a membership of about 250 people, pastor Jay Ilten said, with weekly attendance between 70 and 80 people - could work together to raise the funds for the renovations.
"St. John's Community - the congregation and the people that are coming in and using our facilities - there's just so much love," she said, tearing up. "I think that's it: the overwhelming love."
St. John's also operates the Open Closet ministry, which provides clothing twice a month to people in need. That and the Guesthouse are looking for donations to continue their operations.
The church will accept gently used clothes and shoes for men, women and children as well as money to help with the upkeep of the shelter.
To donate to either ministry and for more information, click HERE.
St. John's Lutheran Church is holding an open house Saturday afternoon for its newly renovated shelter for men. That is at the church, on the corner of Thirteenth and White Streets in Dubuque, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and includes refreshments and a blessing of the Guesthouse at 2:30. The public is invited.
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