Central Iowa Shelter & Services is committed to providing low-barrier shelter*, meals, and support services at no cost to adults experiencing homelessness, while also facilitating their move towards self-sufficiency.
*Low-barrier shelter indicates minimal or no requirements to be granted entry. The goal is to eliminate common obstacles that prevent those in need from seeking help.
In 1992, five men died on the streets of Des Moines. Despite the freezing temperatures of winter, they were denied by area shelters because they were intoxicated. With nowhere else to go, they went to sleep outside and didn’t make it through the night.
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, free meals, and case management services. 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 it calls home today.
Equipped with 207 beds, CISS is able to provide expanded housing services, including an emergency shelter (150 beds), transitional housing for Veterans (19 rooms), and Section 8 Project-Based Voucher efficiency apartments (38 rooms).
In June 2020, CISS founded the Rolling Hills Coalition (RHC), because it was discovered that people were continuously leaving home in nearby counties and seeking services in Des Moines. The RHC extended service reach so that people did not have to leave home to find housing.
CISS continues to expand its services to meet the needs of adults experiencing homelessness and working towards a self-sufficient future.
CISS has proven time and time again that it is more than “just a homeless shelter.” All guests and residents are provided evening and breakfast meals, access to shower and laundry facilities, group counseling, and individualized case management. Referrals to other community resources are also common, including Veterans programming, access to legal services, and substance use disorder evaluations and support.
CISS also has an on-site health clinic, food pantry, clothing closet, and classrooms that meet a variety of important needs and help to further an individual’s journey toward self-sufficiency. Partner organizations provide life skill instructions, like health and wellness education, financial literacy courses, curriculum for renting a home, and career readiness training.
Most notably, CISS provides career preparation through in-house job training. Programs include 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 provide additional resources to the shelter as well as those in need. The farming program harvests produce, which is then purchased by the kitchen program and used to prepare healthy, nutritious meals for those in need.
The farming program is expected to grow following the greenhouse expansion, addition of the HydroCycle Aquaponics System, and the development of the 4-acre urban Agri-Hood. Learn more about The Schoen Family Greenhouse and the Agri-Hood.
CISS hosts many events throughout the year, including two major fundraising events: Heroes for Homeless and Fore Veterans Golf Tournament. These events help to evolve programming as more barriers are identified—allowing CISS to meet greater needs and continue providing services that further self-sufficiency and build a stronger community.