Under Deadly Stretch of Cold, Joppa Turning Up the Heat on Homelessness

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DES MOINES, Iowa — A local organization’s goal to end homelessness is turning up the heat as temperatures dip dangerously low.

“When it gets this cold and it’s dangerously cold, we are out there every day making sure people’s heaters are working and they have plenty of heater fuel,” said Joe Stevens, the CEO and co-founder of Joppa.

Joppa serves the Des Moines homeless community. Stevens says on any given night there are 250 Iowans sleeping outside. With sub-zero temperatures stretching throughout the week, the group has a heat team made up of 40 volunteers who actively seek out those who are not staying at area shelters. The team typically goes out on Saturdays but has had to switch efforts to every day. They bring donated heaters, propane, hats, gloves and boots to anyone trying to survive the night in extremely cold temperatures.

Most shelters limit the amount of belongings a person can bring inside, and the fear of someone else stealing their tent or possessions forces many to continue living outdoors. Brandon Beem serves as the Joppa heat team coordinator. The volunteer-led group says sacrificing their time, energy and weekend to provide warmth is a tradeoff they recommend.

“It pales in comparison. Four hours of time could save a life and to me that is worth it. We have five routes right now. We are serving 120 people or so a week, so if you think of that number, it takes bodies, it takes truck to do this. We need them more and more,” Beem said.

You can help donate heat kits or become a volunteer by going to joppa.org

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