by Billie Greenwood,
Humility of Mary Volunteer
For several months each year, my husband and I volunteer where Mexico borders Arizona at a center that gives aid to migrants. In the morning, we cross through an official gate in the border wall (yes, there is one already) into Mexico. We help serve food and provide used clothing. We ourselves haven’t yet seen the separation of families since from the new “zero tolerance” border policy. But, our friends there keep us posted. It’s a mess. And a tragedy. Family separation has rightfully riveted the nation’s attention.
What’s happening on our international border is similar to what’s happening here in our Quad Cities community. In our volunteer work at Humility Mary Housing and Shelter I witness first hand the pain, anxiety, trauma families experience when they become homeless. They find so few options for them to stay together–when they need each other the most.
As a long-time volunteer, I’ve answered phone inquiries from parents and married couples who need emergency housing. At Humility of Mary Shelter’s emergency shelter, adult couples can sleep in the same building—but they must sleep on separate floors. And there’s no accommodations for children. The emergency shelter can help parents, but not their children. So, that turns most families away, because they naturally want to stay together as a family unit.
Family separation scars kids. Traumatized, they try to cope in many different ways. The emotional mark of being separated from parent or guardian can stay with children for the rest of their life, just like a physical scar can. Adverse childhood experiences, such as losing a parent, increases the likelihood of many negative outcomes. It can even shorten one’s life expectancy. So keeping healthy families together is important.
The needs of people in migration are deep. Far from home and any support systems, they’re extremely vulnerable. They have no nearby friends or relatives. People can easily spot them and prey on them.
Here in the Quad Cities, a family experiencing homelessness will often turn to a relative or friend. They’ll double up or triple up in someone else’s house or apartment. If they stay with someone who’s renting, that host risks losing their own housing by breaking their lease agreement. Staying with an acquaintance is risky for the guest, too, because they’re at the mercy of their host. They can be turned out unexpectedly, sometimes even after “paying” whatever funding they can manage. With no proof and no lease backing them up, they can lose their borrowed roof despite their best efforts.
Families sometimes turn to living in a car or van to stay together. This is unsanitary and uncomfortable. Worse, life on the streets is dangerous. It also lacks stability. Kids miss school. Parents can’t find regular employment when they’ve got no permanent address. Families sometimes separate to provide for the daily functioning of the various members of the family. It’s generally a “last resort” effort. Families want to stay together.
Humility of Mary Housing program lets the family experiencing homelessness live together in a stable environment. Unfortunately, HMHI receives four times more inquiries for assistance than they have the ability to accept. They can help a limited number, and the need is great. Need is growing, not only in Iowa but also in Scott County, according to the newly-released ALICE [Asset-Limited, Income-Constrained, Employed] Report from the United Way.
I can’t fix these national and international problems. But, by dedicating some of my time to those affected by them, I do what I can to address problems that are beyond my ability to solve. Working with others who really care (and who know more than I do) both uplifts and educates me. And, most of all, the inspiration from the families affected by homelessness and migration—both in Davenport and in Mexico–continually remind me what’s really important. They keep going in the face of what looks like insurmountable obstacles. They show me that family is their priority.
The Shelter and Transitional Housing Council of the Quad Cities (STHC) announced today a Lunch & Launch series entitled “Quad Cities Housing Solutions.” Local advocates and concerned citizens from various sectors are invited to participate. The series’ goal is to bring more attention to the affordable housing crisis in the Quad Cities and to generate solutions.
These gatherings aim to generate local solutions to the national housing crisis. Over the next several months, STHC will convene small groups of stakeholders. They will include representatives from the real estate, legal, faith, civil rights, policy, and human service communities of both Iowa and Illinois.
The National Low-Income Housing Coalition’s March, 2018 report “The Gap” identifies a shortage of 7.2 million rental homes that are affordable to extremely low income households. In Scott County, IA alone, the shortage is just shy of 6,700 affordable homes. This shortage of affordable housing makes families double and triple up in inadequate, unsafe living units. Families and young children must separate so that all members of the family can have a safe place to sleep. It’s also common that some who lack housing must sleep in cars and vans. Others must live in cramped and unsanitary hotel rooms.
A total of 21% of all Scott County families are spending more than 50% of their monthly income on rent. The acceptable standard is to spend no more than a third of monthly income for housing. This local housing reality means that our neighbors in the Quad Cities are simply just one illness or accident away from being evicted for inability to pay their rent. Any unfortunate turn of events can force them into homelessness.
We can do better. For more information on the series, please contact: John De Taeye, Director of Development, Humility of Mary Housing, Inc. at 563.484.6901, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thursday, June 7: In Our Own Voices (Participants and former participants)
Thursday, August 2: Developers, landlords, funders
Thursday, September 6: Legal Aid, Policy makers, Civil Rights
Tuesday, September 25: National Voter Registration Day
Thursday, October 4: Service Organizations, Veterans groups
Thursday, November 1: Health Care, Law Enforcement, Group Care
Thursday, December 6, Combined Sectors
For many of us, the holiday season and approaching New Year represent a time for reflection and to make preparations for a fresh start. For Scott (fictitious name), his fresh start has been several years in the making and culminated this month in successfully moving out of our housing program!
There is a lot of activity on Wall Street, Amazon.com, and shopping malls preparing for the holiday season and 2018. We are also experiencing high demand for services at our Shelter and requests for housing assistance. Since July 1 there have been 10,231 over-night stays in our women’s and men’s shelter. Fifty-two different families contacted our Housing Office for housing assistance and referrals in October.
Housing rights advocates and homeless services organizations like Humility of Mary understand homeless shelters are not the solution to ending homelessness. Homeless shelters are expensive to operate and manage. And similar to jails / prisons, juvenile detention centers, hospital emergency rooms, behavior health units, homeless shelters too often provide the last refuge for persons who have “fallen through the cracks.”
But for many experiencing a critical housing crisis, shelters like Humility of Mary Shelter are life-saving. Our first priority is to offer safety, stability, and trust. We ask questions later. Low-barrier shelters like ours provide a place to receive unconditional support to help repair damaged relationships of the past and the foundation and stepping stones to developing a fresh start.
Scott is a US Military Veteran. He has struggled with substance use and mental health challenges.
Scott has been living in HMSI’s Permanent Supportive Housing Program for 4 years. There, he worked on goals, such as going back to work, reconnecting with family and maintaining sobriety. Scott’s Service Coordinators brought wrap-around services to him, in his own safe apartment. Now, he is benefiting from those multiple contacts and relationships with Shelter, veterans’ programs, our Permanent Supportive Housing Program, and Davenport Housing Authority.
After four years of being on Davenport’s Section 8 waiting list, and making progress on addressing his goals, Scott moved into his own apartment the first week of December. Scott will remain in contact with his Humility of Mary Service Coordinator. He’s well on his way to long-term stability with a good paying job and a fresh start to 2018.
Congratulations Scott! May your Fresh Start in 2018 be blessed and supported by those who love you and those you love.
We Still Believe ….Parents want the very best for their children and at times may need assistance in finding a home, good paying jobs to afford housing, while continuing their personal and professional growth …..
We Still Believe …. Families fleeing violent situations in their homes need a safe place to heal, restore relationships, and rebuild a sense of home ….
We Still Believe . . . Persons with limited physical and mental abilities, who are struggling to earn enough money to afford market rate housing, need a safe place to lie their head at night ….
We Still Believe …. Veterans who come home with visible and invisible scars and struggle to reconnect with their home community, families and friends still need a place to call home ….
We Still Believe . . . Governments and the private sector share a responsibility to work together to help build good, quality affordable housing, in safe vibrant neighborhoods.
The following letter to the editor of the Quad City Times appeared on April 29, 2017. It was written by one of our participants in response to statements made by a city leader that cast a negative pall on persons in Davenport who are experiencing homelessness:
There have been concerning statements made in the past two weeks regarding the homeless and facilities provided to assist them.
First of all, may God in his mercy spare you of that situation. However, for those in public offices, whether elected or assigned, that would publicly denounce those who are less fortunate, homeless or otherwise, have no business representing myself, or any other individual in this city of Davenport.
Homelessness is a fact of life, which encompasses all walks of individuals with no prejudice to race, color, status, religion, sex, or creed. To the individual that would use the media to publicly degrade myself, or any other person who may be in a less fortunate position than yourself, all I can say is thank you, on behalf of the person who will replace you in public office.
Common sense should tell us that as concerned citizens, in order to prevent more crimes and destitute situations, there needs to be a place provided to offer some help, guidance, information and encouragement. This center, Timothy’s House of Hope, would offer a positive forum for men, women, and young people to live in a city we are all supposedly so proud of.
The holiday season is fast approaching and we are preparing for another cold winter.
Your previous contributions have helped make Humility of Mary Shelter, Inc. a place where people can start over and move forward. We are so grateful to you for the support you provide those experiencing homelessness in our community.
You are helping our staff touch the lives of hundreds – whether people are facing an urgent need like emergency shelter or seeking to improve their quality of life.
Humility of Mary Shelter, Inc. is your community shelter. We exist to serve you and your loved ones in a time of crisis – to provide housing, healing and hope.
Your gift this year is extremely important because it offers immediate support that will be directed to current needs for our programming.
Donating to our Holiday Gift Project or giving a financial contribution will help make a tangible impact this season on those in our community who have no place to call home. Our entire staff and Board of Directors – everyone here who works to serve those struggling, joins me in thanking you for your generous partnership and support.
Listed below is our annual Holiday Gift Project and our needs this year. It is downloadable HERE.
Whether you are donating to this project or making a financial contribution, our doors are always open. I would love to meet each of you, give you a tour of our facility and talk more about the services we provide. There is an enormous amount of important work being done here every day to make our community a better place for everyone.
Your donation this holiday season will let someone know that people care, and that our community supports them during a difficult period in their life.
Thank you so much for your help.
With warmest wishes for a joy-filled holiday season,
Director of Services
by Christie Adamson, Humility of Mary Shelter Director of Program Services
This month, Humility of Mary Shelter launches a new program to extend permanent, supportive housing to ten adults who are experiencing chronic homelessness. They have lived without a real home for over a year or have repeatedly experienced homelessness across the last several years. On May 3, the first designated program participant moved into his own apartment. Christie Adamson, HMSI’s Director of Program Services, describes the event and its significance:
Today we moved in the first of the ten we’ve selected. Joe’s* one of the guys who refused to come off the streets to sleep in our Shelter. He’d been coming to Shelter and engaging with us during the day, but he wouldn’t stay overnight. He had his camp.
We’d planned for him to meet us here at the Shelter at 8:30 AM. But, when I arrived at 6:30 AM this morning, he was already here! He said: “I’ve been up since 4 AM. I couldn’t sleep.”
Joe has two camp sites at different locations in the Quad Cities. He told us a couple days ago that he wasn’t tearing them down, because he couldn’t believe that we were really going to hand him keys to his own apartment today.
Well, he had a ton of gear since he’d been sleeping outside for so long. He couldn’t carry it all. So, three of us went with John in the Shelter van to get his gear:
And, I drove.
At a certain spot, Joe told us to pull over to the side of the busy road. He hopped out of the van, jumped a ditch, and disappeared into the woods. Soon, he returned lugging six army bags, and he quickly went back for five more. Apparently, he’d stashed his gear to be ready for this moving day. He’d packed up all his belongings and moved them from his campsite way back in the woods. And, he hid his things close to the road, so we could pick it all up.
This morning, when I first saw and greeted Joe in the Day Room, he responded, “Are you here to tell me that it’s not going to happen?” That was the first thing he said! He feared that I was coming to tell him that this apartment wasn’t going to happen. That’s how disillusioned he is with the system! The system hadn’t worked for him. It never had been simple like this is, with us just saying: “Here are your keys. We only need you to sign a couple papers and then we’ll see you in a week.”
During entire process of moving him in today, he kept anticipating that there’d be many hoops he had to jump through—people to see, therapy to attend. But, the reality is: he can’t mess this up. He just needs to live in the house and keep it to a landlord-acceptable standard. A service coordinator will meet with him to give support, but this program is flexible. It’s designed to help people with severe needs. There are no hoops he must jump through.
So, this is why we do this work. It’s for days like today. I’m excited. And, it’s exciting for the Quad City community!
*Name changed to protect confidentiality
For people experiencing homelessness, the night of December 21 is very long. It’s the night of the winter solstice…the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere. It marks the beginning of a season of struggle to find a place to sleep to escape the elements of winter.
So, that morning at 7:30 am, people who care about those who are experiencing homelessness will gather for the annual Quad-Cities Homeless Memorial Service. It takes place in the parking lot of the Community Health Care Clinic, 500 W. River Drive, Davenport. The public is invited to attend this event. Similar services take place across the nation on this day. The service will remember those who have died in the past year who were currently or formerly experiencing homelessness. The service includes music and poetry readings, as well as a moment of silence.
Following the service, from 8AM-11AM, a vigil will be held in the parking lot around a burn barrel as a visual reminder of those less fortunate during this season of celebration. Local agencies, including Humility of Mary Shelter, accept clothing donations of cold weather gear, blankets, toiletries and other necessities at this time. These items will be given to area people experiencing homelessness. The service is sponsored by the Quad City Shelter & Transitional Housing Council.
Those experiencing homelessness are three to four times more likely to die than the general public. This month in Nashville TN, the homeless death rate topped the city’s homicide rate. Many died of illness exacerbated by a life on the street. On any given night in the Quad Cities, there are 400 people experiencing homelessness.
At this time of year, many people ask, “How can I help?” Your presence at the service will let those experiencing homelessness know they are not forgotten.
The “Buy a Bed” concept makes good sense. Your $10 contribution helps others while improving the quality of live in our Quad Cities communities. Donate now, using the PayPal button on the top of this page. Or, participate in the 2015 SleepOut on October 17 and join with other committed people in our area. We exist…because our community cares!