Agency looks to realign program with mission and community needs.
The Crittenton Center has made the difficult decision to close the doors on its emergency shelter, located at 3901 Green Avenue in Sioux City. The decision comes after the agency was forced to temporarily suspend services at the shelter in early April because of COVID-related staffing shortages.
“Operating a facility that is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week takes an entire team of dedicated employees,” says Leslie Heying, Executive Director of Crittenton Center. “One of the many negatives of COVID-19 has been its impact on staffing. In addition to staff absenteeism related to COVID, the pandemic has also taken a toll on our hiring process. We have experienced a significant decrease in new applicants, due, in part, to stimulus payments, greater unemployment benefits and other government assistance related to the pandemic.”
Opened in the late 1970s, Crittenton Center’s emergency shelter was initially developed to provide kids, ages 0 through 17, with a safe, temporary refuge. Over the years, the shelter’s original operational model has remained the same while the landscape of child welfare has experienced significant changes.
The majority of client referrals to Crittenton Center’s shelter are from Juvenile Court Services and the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS), whom Crittenton Center contracts with for services. Approximately 180 clients were cared for at the shelter in 2020, many of those clients from areas outside of Woodbury County.
“Many of the clients admitted to our shelter today have much greater needs – medically, physically and emotionally – than ever before. This creates challenges with attracting and retaining staff,” adds Heying. “We’ve seen an increase in the number of clients with multiple mental health diagnoses and histories of physical and sexual aggression which require a higher level of care than our shelter was designed and equipped to provide.”
The safety and well-being of children in Crittenton Center’s care remains its highest priority says Terrie Rasheed, Chair of Crittenton Center’s Board of Directors.
“We are fully committed to providing the safest possible place for children in our care and why the determination was made to cancel our current DHS contract until an evaluation and determination of the best path forward for the shelter can be implemented,” says Rasheed.
Staying true to its mission, Crittenton Center will be collaborating with community partners to identify areas of need and how the agency can reimagine its shelter facility to best fill those needs.
“We are excited about the opportunity to reimagine and realign our shelter program to fulfill our mission to help families and children in Siouxland,” says Heying.
Crittenton Center’s emergency shelter is just one of several programs at the agency including family education programs, child development centers and supervised apartment living for teens transitioning from the foster care system to independent adulthood. Crittenton Center is one of Siouxland’s largest and longest running nonprofits, serving the community for over 125 years.