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Encyclopedia Dubuque


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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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OPENING DOORS. In 2016 Opening Doors was a community non-profit service organization initiated by six Catholic women's religious congregations in the Dubuque area. It was founded in 2000 to assist women needing emergency/transitional housing. (1)

Opening Doors offered short-term emergency shelter services and an extended-stay program through TERESA SHELTER and transitional housing at MARIA HOUSE. Opening Doors valued the dignity of women and supported them making the choices appropriate for developing personal responsibility to live independently in permanent housing. Opening Doors achieved its mission by working collaboratively with other community resources. (2) In 2017 a supportive housing program was begun at Francis Apartments located on the STEEPLE SQUARE campus. The program combined affordable rent and support services which proved to break the cycle of homelessness and reduce recidivism according to a news release. (3)

Determining the number of homeless living outside as well as those living in shelters in the city was done by a semi-annual "point-in-time" count. Volunteers explored areas in which homeless had been found in the past. They offered blankets, hats and anything useful for the winter months to anyone they found as well as discussing why they were living this way and their interest in finding shelter. (4)

In 2017 Michelle Brown, the only person to serve as director since 2000, stepped down and her successor, Carol Gebhart was named. (5)

In 2022 Opening Doors was the recipient of $10,000 from the McDonough Foundation. The grant would be used to support program expenses and provide a case manager's salary for the Opening Doors supportive housing program at Francis Apartments. Opening Doors subsidized clients' rent on a model based on the S. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Permanent Supportive Housing program.

Opening Door in August, 2022 did not accept any state of federal funding when the federal government changed to a "housing-first" model which created limits on the length of a client's stay. The agency's focus on women with children is another reason it went without government funding. Sobriety was a strict standard at Opening Doors since parents could lose custody of their children if the children were around illegal drug use. (6)

See: Helen HUEWE



1. Rezab, Matthew. "Brown Steps Down at Opening Doors; Successor Named," Telegraph Herald, November 21, 2017, p. 1A

2. Montgomery, Jeff. "Dubuque Woman Does Her Homework on Homelessness," Telegraph Herald, January 9, 2017, p. 5A

3. News in Brief, "Opening Doors Receives $10,000 from McDonough Foundation," Telegraph Herald, July 31, 2022, p. 9A

4. Ibid.

5. Rezab

6. Irvine, Joshua, "Safety of Women, Children Comes First at Dubuque's Opening Doors," Telegraph Herald, July 27, 2022, p. 2A