DES MOINES, Iowa -- Lynette Henderson-Hudson has dedicated her life to helping the homeless. But after less than two months of working at Central Iowa Shelter and Services, she says she had to quit.
"I would cry all the way home. And cry at home thinking about what in the world is going on? It seemed to me like it was more like just a warehouse for homeless people."
Henderson-Hudson says the bathrooms are filthy; walls are covered in mold and bedbugs infest the dorms. "There's no reason whatsoever for a building that costs that much and has been around such a short period of time to be in that sort of disrepair," she said, "The bedbugs are climbing up the walls in packs. They're...they're all over."
Henderson-Hudson says the final straw involved the donations that poured in. She says often clothes were brought in and employees would take what they wanted first. Whatever was left would go to the homeless. As for the food donations, she said, "There is a place, Panera Bread, who donates their bread after the store closes. The bread and whatever goodies that they deliver would sit there until they were hard and until they were moldy and be thrown out," Henderson-Hudson told us, "I remember myself helping a gentleman and his wife unload six of each, six meat and cheese trays and six of the vegetable trays. The clients did not get them. They sat in the kitchen refrigerator until they were spoiled and got thrown out."
Richard Samuels is a combat vet who stayed at the shelter for six months. He says the theft of donations is rampant. "Food will come in. Stuff I saw with my very own eyes. Vegetables, fruit, sits out on the counter 'til it completely rots. That's ridiculous," Samuels said, "People going in the kitchen filling their grocery bags up before they go off work so they can put the stuff out in their car. That's donations that have been designated for us."
And the conditions, Samuels said, "You wouldn't want to use their showers. We put cardboard, garbage bags on the floor so you can have the freedom to try to at least take a shower."
We were told that several board members were at the shelter Wednesday for a political event, but none would be willing to answer our questions on camera or let us see the bathrooms and kitchen. We were told Board of Directors Chair Justin Schoen would call us with a comment, but that call never came.
Choking back tears, Henderson-Hudson says residents are treated more like animals than people in need of help. "It's sickening and it's heartbreaking that there are people that would rather...sorry... that would rather live in the streets than go live in a place that's supposed to help them"