What We Do
Our emergency shelter is open 24/7/365, serving men and women aged 18 and older who are experiencing homelessness. We have 150 emergency shelter beds, and each guest may stay for up to 90 days. Upon entry to the shelter, our clients work with case managers and advocates to take advantage of the robust programs and services that will help them secure permanent housing.
Central Iowa Shelter & Services has proven time and time again that it is more than a homeless shelter—it is a turning point for adults to regain stability and propel forward toward long-term self-sufficiency.
Not only are guests and residents provided with breakfast and evening meals, but they receive access to shower and laundry facilities, group counseling, and individualized case management. Referrals to other community resources also connect individuals with supportive services such as Veterans programming, legal aid, and substance use disorder evaluations and treatment.
CISS also offers an on-site health clinic, food pantry, clothing closet, and classrooms to meet a variety of important needs and help set individuals up for success. Partner organizations also help teach life skills, like health and wellness education, financial literacy courses, curriculum for renting a home, and career readiness training.
Most notably, CISS provides career preparation through three in-house job training programs. This includes janitorial skills training, the culinary program through the community kitchen at Mulberry Street Café, and training in agriculture and sustainability through the farming program—known as Mulberry Farms & Food.
In addition to skill-building, these programs generate valuable resources for the shelter and other community programs that serve those in need. The farming program cultivates and harvests fish and produce, which is then purchased by the kitchen program and used to prepare healthy, nutritious meals for those facing food insecurity.
CISS hosts many events throughout the year, including two major fundraising events: Heroes for Homeless and Fore Veterans Golf Tournament. These events allow CISS to offer more resources, strengthen our community, and make a greater impact for those on their journey toward self-sufficiency.
Currently, CISS is working to establish a coordinated entry system for eligible individuals through Iowa Housing Help (IHH). To fill out the form or learn more about IHH assistance, visit iowahousinghelp.com.
In 1992, five men froze to death on the streets of Des Moines. Despite the freezing winter temperatures, the men were denied by area shelters because they were intoxicated. With nowhere else to go, they were forced to find a place to sleep outside—but they never woke up.
A group of eight churches responded by joining efforts and creating Churches United, a traveling homeless shelter. Each week, one of the eight churches would take a turn hosting and feeding individuals in need. After a while, they realized that the traveling shelter model was not sustainable, so they began raising funds for a long-term space.
Their goal came to fruition in 1995, and Churches United moved into an 8,000-square-foot building, consisting of 96 beds between the emergency shelter and veteran’s dorm. In 2006, Churches United became Central Iowa Shelter & Services (CISS), a name that better communicated its mission and services.
In September 2012, CISS moved into the 42,000-square-foot facility that it operates in today. An additional wing was added in 2021 to accommodate a need for administrative offices and 24 additional apartments.
Today, CISS is equipped with 231 beds and is able to provide expanded housing services, emergency shelter (150 beds), transitional housing for Veterans (19 rooms), and Section 8 Project-Based Voucher efficiency apartments (62 rooms).