Homelessness and at risk kids in Iowa. The real story.

Homeless child on the street

You see them holding cardboard signs on your commute to work, but have you ever wondered how Iowa’s homeless population ended up there? There are many opinions on the matter ranging from “they deserve it” to “anyone can be homeless,” but neither of these beliefs is entirely accurate. In fact, the issue is a bit more complex than most people realize. Tony Timm is the Chief Executive Officer of The Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Iowa and the prior CEO of Central Iowa Shelter and Services. He also explains how the pandemic response hurt our kids and what Iowans can do to help.

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Iowa’s Homeless Population

It’s a question most of us what to know the answer to when we see a homeless person on the side of the street. How’d they end up there? Timm explains most of these individuals are the result of drug or alcohol abuse, but there’s more to it than that. They are also the result of family or community breakdown.

Timm explains many of us have strong family or community support systems. If we have a problem or struggle, our family or community steps in to help. We take this for granted. But for Iowa’s homeless, many do not have this system in place.

He also mentions mental illness is a significant problem in the homeless community. In many cases, he has seen people get their lives back on track when taking their medication but sees a complete reversal when they stop taking their medication, thinking they have recovered.

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Should we give to Iowa homeless?

Timm answers the age-old question of whether we should give. Because mental illness, drug abuse, and alcohol abuse are common in the homeless community, how do we know they won’t use our money to buy drugs or alcohol?

There are many schools of thought, but the bottom line is that you can give as you see fit. He did point out that those concerned about supporting bad habits you can choose to give toiletry kits or energy bars. Timm says they need these items and will most certainly use them.

Kids in Iowa

Children were negatively impacted during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Their support systems were removed, their access to food was cut off in some cases, and their education faced a significant setback.

Timm sees kids struggling from new group acclamation problems and group activities due to isolation in a critical brain development period in their life. This is negatively impacting their behavior and ability to work with others.

They’re also suffering from a lack of financial literacy and new mental health setbacks. Now is the time to pour resources into our kids.
No matter where you sit politically, one thing we can all agree on is that kids don’t deserve to be held back and have no choice in society or the government’s decision to shut down countries. They were the true victims of this Pandemic.

How you can help

It can be awkward for some to jump into new volunteer opportunities. Timm understands this and says there are many different ways you can help at-risk kids in Iowa. You can donate because funding is always a concern, volunteer time with kids, teach classes on skills you know a lot about, work behind the scenes, or even partner on internships or special projects with your company.

Timm says The Boys and Girls Club of Central Iowa will fully train you and explain the entire process first. All you need to do is reach out on their website.

Tony Timm. CEO, The Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Iowa

Tony Timm is the CEO, The Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Iowa

As CEO of The Boys & Girls Club of Central Iowa, Tony Timm’s responsibilities include overseeing the eight Des Moines area club sites, leading the organization’s strategic direction, and oversight of organization’s operations, financials, programming, talent recruitment and resource development efforts.

Tony received his Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Iowa Wesleyan University.

Check The Boys and Girls Club of Central Iowa results »

Programs With Impact

STEM – Each BGCCI Club is equipped with resources that offer daily activities and programs designed to develop members’ skills in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects.

THE ARTS – BGCCI arts programs help Club members develop confidence, self-expression, and creativity, multicultural appreciation, and skills in crafts and visual, performing, and literary arts.

ACADEMIC SUPPORT & HOMEWORK ASSISTANCE – Each day after school, professional staff and dedicated volunteers help BGCCI members become more successful in school by providing them with the tools and strategies to increase the academic achievement of students and encourage members to become self-directed leaders.

EDUCATION & CAREER DEVELOPMENT – BGCCI offers teens the chance to serve as leaders throughout the Club, build life skills, and apply academic skills in a real-world context, through mentorship opportunities that move them toward personal development and great futures.

Learn more »

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Top photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash