Letter to the Editor: Public officials should be empathetic

letter to the editor

A letter to the editor is a powerful means of communication.

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.

Holiday Gift Project 2016: YOU make a difference!

holiday gift project 2016An open invitation from Christine Adamson, Director of Services at Humility of Mary Shelter, Inc.

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,
Christine Adamson
Director of Services

Holiday Gift Project 2016

Click image to download a copy.

“This is so exciting! This is why we do this work. It’s for days like today.”

apartment for chronically homeless

“Joe’s” camping gear is piled on the floor of his new apartment as he prepares to spend his first night indoors in his new home.

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:

  • Cathy Jordan [VALOR Director: Veterans Accessing Long-Term Opportunities & Resources Program], who’d initially developed rapport with John (who’s a vet),
  • Joe, who’ll be Joe’s new service coordinator.

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.

Moving Day

bedroom for man suffering chronic homelessness

The bedroom is simple and plain. This bed will offer Joe his first night’s indoor sleep in six years.

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

Quad-Cities Homeless Memorial Service remembers the perished

homeless memorial service vigil

File photo shows scene at previous Homeless Memorial service. Credit: QC Shelter and Transitional Council

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.

names of the dead

Service will remember those homeless or formerly homeless from the Quad Cities who have perished in the past year.

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.

Memorial Service Vigil

burn barrel

Those on the streets warm themselves near burn barrels.

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.

Buy a Bed at the Shelter: An Infographic

buy a bed

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!

Outreach Team and Rapid Rehousing Change Life for Homeless Vet

Cathy Jordan (L) and Dan Beguelin (R), HMSI Outreach Team members, fill a backpack with some basic supplies--food, clothing and information about community resources-- to assist a person who is living on the streets in the Quad Cities Area.

Cathy Jordan (L) and Dan Beguelin (R), HMSI Outreach Team members, fill a backpack with some basic supplies–food, clothing and information about community resources– to assist a person who is living on the streets in the Quad Cities Area.

The work of a Shelter service coordinator is difficult and, certainly at times, discouraging. These unsung, everyday heroes counsel our program participants at Shelter and help them troubleshoot the challenges that created and even trap them in their situation of homelessness. Recently, in a remarkable—and dramatic reversal—they successfully transformed a local man’s life in an almost miraculous way.

Shelter’s Outreach Team–six members of the Shelter staff–regularly searches for people sleeping on the streets to offer resources, information and assistance. Six members of the Shelter staff share outreach duty. On April 15, Dan Beguelin, Shelter’s Veterans Transitional Housing Coordinator, and Cathy Jordan, VALOR Program Lead, woke up early for their turn. On their morning rounds, Cathy and Dan spotted Will Jones*. Will had camped out on a railroad viaduct bridge and was sleeping directly under the tracks on a city street in Davenport.

Will was really well hidden, they remember. In fact, it was just a lucky circumstance that they happened to notice him at all. Only the top of his bald head reflected the light of the rising morning sun…and attracted their attention. But once they spotted him, they approached Will to see what they could do on that chilly, mid-April morning.

railroad tracksWill, they learned, was a U.S. veteran. Haltingly, he told them that he’d been living on the streets for the last 15 years — in various states, in various cities. For a reason he didn’t explain, he’d suffered a break in relationship with his family. So, he’d been on his own all that time: a lonely, tough way of life. Many times over the years, he said, he’d been beaten up at night while sleeping and his personal items stolen.

Immediately, the team realized that they’d need to build rapport with Will and try to earn his trust. They knew that there may be government help for him due to his military service in the Navy. But, years of hard living on the streets had led Will to think that nothing good would ever come his way. They’d have to help him find the confidence to claim his worth…and his human rights to housing and healthcare.

backpackSo, Cathy and Dan gave Will some basic need items right away—things like clean, warm socks and personal hygiene products. That concrete help also demonstrated to Will that Shelter wanted to offer personal support. It would begin to change Will’s self-perception that no one cared.

Cathy and Dan engaged Will in conversation, and they set up a follow-up meeting with Will that week. To their delight, he kept that appointment. Throughout the following days, they carefully maintained a connection with Will. And, they shared with him some options for safe, secure housing that were immediately available, if he’d be willing to believe and give it a try.

Two weeks later, Will did believe strongly enough in Dan, Cathy and their vision for him that he enrolled in Shelter’s VALOR [Veterans Accessing Long-Term Opportunities & Resources] program. By that, he opened the door to finding safe, affordable and permanent housing. Exactly one week later, Will accepted a ride to a new housing unit in Illinois that he was not only willing—but actually excited –to see. He’d begun to believe and to hope.

Will’s new apartment was newly constructed, immaculate and fully furnished with brand new furniture (some still with tags!). And, just one week later, he was indeed permanently housed in that subsidzed, permanent supportive housing program.

Rapid Rehousing

Now, three months later, Will still lives contentedly in his new home in Illinois, happily riding his bike around town.

Even though it was a major change in lifestyle for him, after 15 years of life on the streets, he remains successfully housed and is receiving some needed mental and primary health care, as well. With the support of staff in his new residence, he’s applying for disability benefits. Should he qualify, he’ll have a reliable source of support going forward.

“Building trust is a challenging task,” says Cathy, “but once that is established, rapidly re-housing a literally homeless individual can happen.”

This is all in a day’s work for a service coordinator at the Shelter. Not all stories have a happy ending. But we celebrate the ones that do.

*name changed to protect individual’s privacy