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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.

Our Approach

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.

Our Services

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

A 24/7/365 Emergency Shelter for men and women experiencing homelessness. Each guest is supported by a case manager who helps them access services and secure permanent housing.
In 2022, we set the plans in motion for a 4-acre urban AgriHood that brings large-scale gardening, art, and park space to the CISS community. This will expand our capacity to provide nutritious meals and job training to clients.
A state-of-the-art greenhouse that features a HydroCycle Aquaponics System, which produces a low-maintenance, self-sustaining source of tilapia and fresh produce.
Our clothing closet provides adult clothing of all types and sizes—including cold-weather necessities—to any member of our community who needs it.
Our campus includes 81 single-efficiency apartments reserved for clients with Section 8 vouchers. 19 of these are designed to house veterans, 44 are project-based vouchers, and 18 are single room occupancy. Some apartments also meet ADA compliance regulations.
An ever-expanding farm program run by CISS staff and clients that provides healthy, locally grown food options, including fresh produce and sustainably farmed tilapia.
The Mulberry Farm & Food Truck is another innovative solution in the fight to end homelessness and food insecurity in Des Moines and beyond.
Summer Meal Meet-Ups, a program offering free meals to kids throughout the summer, invites anyone ages 18 and under to receive free and nutritious meals at sites across Iowa.
A CISS-supported program that helps people outside of Des Moines secure safe, affordable housing in their area so they don’t have to travel to access support.
In partnership with United Way of Central Iowa, CISS provides meaningful job training opportunities that help clients build skills, gain experience, and expand their resumes.
CISS partners with Hy-Vee Health Exemplar Care to provide quality on-site medical, mental, and behavioral health services to those in need, whether they use the shelter or not.
An on-site Food Pantry that provides individuals with a three-day supply of food for each member of their family, once a month. Made possible through a partnership with DMARC.
10% of CISS clients are veterans, and we provide housing, meals, clothing, and case management to help them overcome substance use disorders, mental health challenges, and financial instability.
CISS’ community kitchen is funded by United Way and provides fresh and healthy meals to those in need throughout the Des Moines metro area.
Growth Financial Services is a subsidiary of CISS that exists to help interested individuals use their paychecks to pay bills, budget, build savings, and more.
A hands-on, face-to-face initiative that aims to help the unhoused secure housing, receive guidance and support and begin their journey toward self-sufficiency.

Our History

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).