Activist Zach Wahls poses for a photo on Friday, Aug. 25, 2017. Wahls believes that it should be easier for homeless individuals to access shelters and other services. (Nick Rohlman/The Daily Iowan)

Former Hawkeye offers new approach to homelessness


Former UI student Zach Wahls discusses different approaches to the homeless epidemic.

By Jacob Schwenk

As many Iowa City residents know, homelessness is a serious issue in the community. Many homeless individuals face numerous challenges before becoming eligible for various housing programs. One former Hawkeye (and Daily Iowan alum) hopes to change that.

Activist Zach Wahls thinks that it should be easier for those who are homeless to get support and access to shelter. While some believe an independent citizen should be sober, clean, and have a form of income before qualifying for housing, Wahls views the situation differently.

“People need housing first,” he said. “We are now living in a world where we have revolutionary potential to make a transformative difference.”

To address the issue, he will present “Housing First: A Revolutionary Approach to Ending Chronic Homelessness” at the Englert, 221 E. Washington St., at 7 p.m. today.

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Wahls hopes to start a discussion between students and nonstudents and, as a result, help them learn more about the issue.

Through the presentation, he believes that students will learn about crucial issues that are close to home. For him, the issue is personal. As a student at the University of Iowa, Wahls was exposed to the problem of homelessness through individuals on the Pedestrian Mall.

He believes that what students learn in class is not enough. So Wahls partnered with Dave Gould on the Housing First project. Gould, an instructor at the UI, had Wahls as a student and wants to help him address the homelessness epidemic in Iowa City.

“Zach is going to share something that is inspiring,” Gould said. “We should all be contributing to something bigger than ourselves.”

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Gould also hopes that a sense of humanity and empathy arises from the presentation.

Another individual working on the presentation, Crissy Canganelli, is already involved in the effort to decrease the numbers of Iowa City’s homeless community. She is the executive director of the Shelter House, a programs that provides aid to Iowa City’s homeless population.

“Anyone interested in this presentation would learn about some of the most vulnerable members of our community, the chronically homeless, and our work locally to bring Housing First to Johnson County, an intervention proven to save both lives and money,” Canganelli said.

The Housing First presentation will work to defeat misconceptions, Wahls said. He believes that there are many long-term goals that can come out of participating in the program, which aims to save people money while helping those in need.


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