DES MOINES, IOWA — Every state has problems with homelessness and those problems come in different shapes and sizes.

At the Lutheran Church of Hope in Des Moines, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) field office hosted a two-day event aimed at educating organizations. The 2022 Iowa Nebraska Peer-to-Peer Homelessness Symposium wrapped up on Wednesday, marking the 9th year of the event.

The two-day event featured updates from state and federal entities on homelessness initiatives, policies and programs. Panels included directors of different organizations from Iowa and Nebraska.

“The symposium also talks about what happens when somebody is homeless,” said Steve Eggleston, the Director of the Des Moines field office of U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. “What we do as a community, as a state, as nonprofits, state and local governments, and HUD; what we do with the dollars that we have to make it easier for people to get in the mainstream again and not be homeless.”

The dollars referred to by Eggleston come from the American Rescue Plan where $5 billion was allocated to HUD aimed at housing homeless people. The goal of the event was to allow people from different organizations to share what works and what hasn’t worked and how entities can spend those dollars in the future. One organization outlines the problem Polk County is having with homelessness.

“In Polk County, we are a primarily urban, suburban community, so rural homelessness does look different than Polk County,” said Angie Arthur, the Executive Director for Homeward. “We have special populations that we serve: single individuals, families, veterans, young adults, youth and people that are chronically homeless. So we have all those individuals that we serve in Polk County.”

Arthur has been attending the symposium since 2018 and was a speaker on the eviction prevention panel. She added that it’s a great way to see what organizations are doing right and how other groups can apply that model in their own communities.

A first time attendee at the symposium works for United Way in Des Moines. He added some thoughts from his experience at the event.

“It was a really good opportunity to hear from folks from Iowa and Nebraska about what is working and what is not working when it comes to serving those in the need of housing,” Luke Lynch OpportUNITY Director at United Way in Central Iowa. “And figuring out what resources are available, a lot of funding has come down in the last year or two because of the pandemic.”

Eggleston added that the homeless population in Iowa has grown smaller over the last decade and the largest portion of the homeless population has shifted from veterans to families now dealing with the problem.