We don’t always recognize that someone is homeless. They may be dressed appropriately, appear fairly healthy, even show up for work or school on a regular basis. Homelessness comes in many forms, and may be hidden.

In Iowa, homeless means the person lacks a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence, or resides in a shelter, welfare hotel, transitional program or place not ordinarily used as regular sleeping accommodations. (Iowa Code § 48A.2) Non-ordinary accommodations include camping, sleeping in a car, or “couch surfing” at the homes of friends and relatives because the individual has no permanent place to stay. There are no homeless shelters or daily free meal centers anywhere in Dallas County.

Being homeless has a huge negative impact on health. Many homeless individuals have lost a job, or lost their family breadwinner, causing loss of healthcare insurance as well. Homeless children struggle to do well in school.

Now that you realize you have homeless neighbors, what can you do? Volunteer at the mobile food pantry, or free clothing closet. Watch for opportunities to give someone a ride. Be the friend who babysits on a moment’s notice. Provide a safe place for a student to do homework.