Metro students pitch in at shelter

The Gazette Jan 28, 1991
By Gail Ireland Gazette staff writer

Metro students pitch in at shelter

“A while ago I was living on the streets, so I kind of know where they re coming from.”

Aaron Ferguson, 19, was talking about the people who eventually will live in the new homeless shelter in the former Hawaiian Inn on Sixth Street SW.

Ferguson is one of the Metro High School students who have been helping with HACAP‘s renovation of the build­ing.

“I started last Monday, and worked four days last week. I’ll work ’til they don’t need me any more,” he said.

Ferguson normally attends school in the morning, and also works 15 to 20 hours a week at McDonald’s. Metro stu­dents are excused from school to do the community service project.

Ferguson likes the work at the shel­ter, and he also likes the goal.

“I think it s good they’re changing it to a homeless shelter. It’s courageous to try do that,” he said.

Government teacher Bill Graham said HACAP divided the approximately 50 students into crews. The students have been moving couches, bathtubs, chairs and sinks out of rooms and into storage. After contractors cut through walls to convert the rooms to small apartments dust covered everything, and there was a lot of moving and cleaning to be done. Many of the students worked on the pro­ject every day, all week, and often stayed six or seven hours, Graham said.

“It’s hard work they’re doing,” he said. “Especially moving the heavy bathroom fixtures.”

Angel Wilson, 16, is one of the stu­dents who worked every day. She heard about the project from Graham.

“It’ll be pretty neat,” Wilson said of the creation of a home for homeless fam­ilies.

“It’s fun. We carried TVs and mat­tresses, and I baby-sat a couple days for one of the HACAP employees there.”

She will be working again this week, she said.

John Randall, 18, has also contributed a lot of time to the project. He said he thinks it’s wonderful something is being done to help the homeless.

“I think it’s great. I love helping peo­ple. I enjoy doing this kind of stuff. It’s been pretty hard, but it’s fun.”

Mary Schoen-Clark at HACAP says the involvement of the young people is critical.

“Other groups will be involved in the future. The Metro students are taking the lead in taking out furniture, clean­ing, preparing for painting and carpet­ing. The students help is really valu­able. We’ll need an infusion of community help to complete this pro­ject.”

Other community groups are coming forward. At least one unit will be available by Feb.1, thanks to labor and financial help from the Kiwanis Club.

Businesses are also making donations of paint and carpeting, labor and mon­ey.

There is a waiting list of 30 homeless women with children for the apartments. When it s done it will provide 44 two- and three-room family units. They are working on 24 units now.

Most of the applicants for the spaces have two or three chil­dren, Schoen-Clark said.

The $1 million grant funding the conversion is one of two in the country, and the Cedar Rap­ids program is a model project that will provide comprehensive assistance for homeless families. Kirkwood Community College has a grant to provide schooling for the mothers. If they can’t find a job, HACAP or a corporate sponsor hires them. There will be on-site child care, nutritional services, health care and a small store.

“The project is called Inn-Circle – we have to encircle families at risk,” Schoen-Clark said.

“They’ve been absolutely in-credible,” Schoen-Clark said of the Metro students. “There would be no way we could accomplish moving all these things without their help. I think it’s been a positive experience for them too.”

Metro students earlier helped HACAP renovate a house to be used as transitional housing and built a Headstart playground at the HACAP central office.