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Shelter House Accepting All in Need

IOWA CITY, Iowa (CBS2/FOX28) -- Iowa City wants to remind people that public places like the library and recreation center are open for folks to stay warm during the day, and is making a crucial zoning exception at the Shelter House for more people to stay warm at night.

Rya Dunnington took her two kids, Aubryn and McCall, to the Robert A. Lee Recreation Center to play pool Monday afternoon.

"Well, we're trying to get out of the house and get some exercise, and just keep ourselves from going stir crazy," said Dunnington.

With school nowhere in sight, she wanted to give her kids something to do while staying warm.

"We try to do stuff outside even when it's cold, but this is sort of past that point of (being) too dangerous," Dunnington said.

It's that danger that Shelter House executive director Crissy Canganelli said will keep their doors open Monday night, no matter how many people show up.

"We're not going to turn anybody away," Canganelli said.

Because of a zoning regulation, Shelter House can host only 70 people per night. But thanks to an agreement with Iowa City, the staff is able to make an exception because of the extreme cold.

On Sunday night, Shelter House held 77 people. On Monday night, there may be more.

"At the same time, we really need people to hear, that if you have a safe place to be, stay there. This isn't the time to come to Shelter House if you have any other place to be," she said.

Shelter House has been able to unfold extra cots, and if there isn't a bed for someone, they can sleep on a couch, a floor mat, or anywhere. She said the cold is bringing the shelter's mission sharply into focus.

"That need to be able to afford someone a safe place to stay, to us, it's an essential thing that everyone should have access to -- it's a right," Canganelli said.

Shelter House won't be turning anyone away for the rest of the week. After that point, they'll re-evaluate and decide if they will operate that way for the rest of winter.
 
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