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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
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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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TERESA SHELTER. Opened in May 2006, Teresa Shelter offered women with their children who found themselves homeless due to circumstances beyond their control place to stay for thirty days every three months. Exceptions would be made during winter months. During dangerous weather, the shelter would remain open all day. (1) They could stay overnight, but were required to leave during the day when the thick sleeping pads used by the families on a carpeted floor were stored. Local churches provided towels, soap, blankets, garbage bags and shampoo. Each family was also provided with a 20-gallon tote to store personal items. They were able to use the laundry facilities, showers and community room. Before leaving in the morning, clients received a small breakfast. They also had access to community resources. (2)

At the end of 2007, Opening Doors opened Teresa Shelter day and night to see if homeless women and children needed uninterrupted refuge. As a result of the trial period, the Opening Doors board voted in January to continue offering the 24-hour emergency refuge until there was no need or funds were not available. Making this change was expected to cost an additional $20,000 annually. (3)

In 2009 a $250,000 grant from the Iowa Finance Authority and a $5,000 grant from the Variety Club of Iowa provided financial support for a major renovation of the shelter. Work included a new hip roof, geothermal heating, replacement of floors, a front facade built around the main entrance, repaving the parking lot and creating a play space at the rear of the building for the women and children to enjoy. Interior modifications included partitions to give each woman her own privacy. (4) By 2011, Teresa Shelter had served more than 1,230 homeless women and children. (5) In 2016 the shelter received between fifty and eighty requests for shelter each month. (6)

Teresa Shelter and MARIA HOUSE were part of the OPENING DOORS program in Dubuque. In 2017 in collaboration with STEEPLE SQUARE, Opening Doors officials announced that the former St. Mary's School was being converted into 12 two and three-bedroom apartments called Francis Apartments. Permanent supportive housing was being provided graduates of Maria House and Teresa Shelter in eight of the units. (7) Permanent supportive housing combined affordable housing with services intended to be cost-effective ways to help people live stable productive lives. One of the apartments would be in compliance with the American with Disabilities Act. (8)

Dealing with the PANDEMIC of 2020 forced some changes in the procedures of the shelter. Residents first stayed in the emergency sleeping room which was filled with bunk beds. To lessen the chance of passing germs, people slept head to toe. Officials also moved people more quickly to provide some privacy and social distancing alone or with their children. A trauma and grief group was established and rent and utility subsidies were also provided when possible. (9)



1. Nevans-Pederson, Mary, "Opening Doors Envisions New Shelter," Telegraph Herald, February 8, 2006, p. 1

2. Nevans-Pederson, Mary, "Public Praises New Women's Shelter," Telegraph Herald, April 26, 2006, p. 1

3. Nevans-Pederson, Mary, "Opening Doors Has Revolving Need," Telegraph Herald, February 11, 2008, p. 3

4. Montgomery, Jeff. "Dubuque Woman Does Her Homework on Homelessness," Telegraph Herald, January 9, 2017, p. 65A

5. Hogstrom, Erik, "Doors to Open on Fundraising Effort," Telegraph Herald, July 7, 2011, p. 1

6. Montgomery

7. "Opening Doors Announces Third Doorway of Hope," Telegraph Herald, May 30, 2017, p. 10

8. "Opening Doors Announces Starting Date for Supportive Housing at Steeple Square," Telegraph Herald, June 20, 2017, p. 18

9. Reese, Kayli, "Nowhere Else to Go," Telegraph Herald, October 4, 2020, p. 1A