Iowa City Shelter House: A place to call home

Story by Sherri Healy

He’s spent 45 years doing it wrong. And now he’s going to spend the next 90 days doing it right.

Donald Kevin Marshall, 49, is currently an Iowa City Shelter House resident with a scarring past who’s trying to heal his wounds.

“I’ve been shot, stabbed, broken up, hooked up, shook up, messed up,” Marshall said. “If you rewind the tape and look back on what I’ve been through to get to where I’m at, it’s only through the mercy and grace of God that I’m still here alive.”


Marshall’s conversion from drug addict, alcoholic, hustler, and con artist to a born again Christian was the greatest prayer ever answered. According to Marshall, finding God was the awakening he needed to get his life back together. “I was shattered like a cup,” Marshall explained. “But God put me back together again.”


Marshall’s life story holds credence that there’s beauty in the breakdown; his dark past has become a catalyst for change.

“I’ve manipulated people, I’ve conned people, I’ve stole from people, I’ve lied to people, and I’ve hurt people. It’s sad that I look back at my life like this; it’s not a life that I brag on, it’s hurtful,” Marshall said. “I’m crying in the inside now as I speak to you, because it’s not that I didn’t know, I did know, it’s just that I refused to do so.”

Today he is trying his hardest to get his life back on track.

Finding a home without a family

According to Marshall, the consistent marital and alcohol abuse problems he and his wife were facing caused her to kick him out of their house and into the streets.

Marshall learned of the Iowa City Shelter House from a friend and has been residing and rebuilding his life there for the past two weeks. And in those two weeks he hasn’t had one drop of alcohol, an accomplishment he is thankful for.

“This shelter here, thank God for it,” Marshall said.

Shelter Life

Marshall’s life is beginning to come together again through the Shelter House. His day starts out by reading the bible and praying every morning. Next on his agenda is to build his resume and apply for jobs in person and online. His counselor at the Shelter House even set him up with his own email address to keep in contact with employers.

“The shelter has really, really been helping me to get back on track with the way of life,” Marshall added.

He also receives services from the shelter house. According to Opening Doors, The Campaign for Shelter House pamphlet, for a maximum of 90 days, all shelter residents are provided with:

  • Breakfast and nightly meal
  • Shower and laundry facilities
  • Mailing address
  • Phone and message service

Non-residents are provided with some of the same necessities through the drop in center that operates daily from 5:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. The drop in center is open and available to all in need. Former clients, homeless people not staying at the shelter and other low-income citizens utilize the drop in center. The drop in center provides:

  • Laundry and shower facilities
  • Clothing and toiletry donations
  • Evening meals
  • A mailing address to receive mail
  • Telephone usage
  • Place to pick up phone messages
  • Access to Shelter House staff

“This place here , the Shelter House, has helped me since I’ve been here to get started back on track and back on the world to be a productive citizen. This is like a rest stop; this aint’ for you to be here permanent and get relaxed and take advantage of it,” Marshall explained. “This is for you to get in and get out. And while you’re here, they are willing to help you if you’re willing to help yourself. They give you 90 days. If you ain’t figured it out or worked it out by 90 days, you ain’t want to. There’s no excuse.”

Future Plans

One short-term plan that Marshall wants to accomplish is getting a steady job so he can get back on his feet and not have to rely on the Shelter House for his basic needs.

“I’m a very good worker and I take my job serious. And really, I take life serious. Cause I’m at the age of 49, I’ll be 50; that’s half a century,” Marshall explained. “It’s time for me to build me a foundation and stand strong as a man.”

Marshall would also like to go back to school and continue his education. He would like to attend business classes at Kirkwood Community College in the near future. But ultimately, Marshall wants to become a Deacon in the church.

With his goals in mind, he’s working towards them on a day by day basis. “I try to achieve something every day,” Marshall said.

But for right now he’s just living life one day at a time.

“I’ve just been searching, trying to find myself,” Marshall added.

To read more about homelessness in Iowa City and the Shelter House check out Homeless in Iowa City: Business on the streets and Homelessness in Iowa City: An insider’s perspective.


2 responses to “Iowa City Shelter House: A place to call home

  1. Pingback: Homelessness in Iowa City: An insider’s perspective « Retail Therapy

  2. Pingback: Homeless in Iowa City: Business on the streets « Retail Therapy

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