Why federal housing assistance is more important than ever

federal housing assistance

Federal housing assistance is a critical need–now more than ever.

Families and communities–like ours in the Quad Cities–need some resources to thrive.  We’ve relied for years, for instance, on federal housing assistance. Grant money from the U.S. Departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Agriculture (USDA) helped vulnerable people find stability by helping them into safe homes. That, in turn, has increased stability to the Quad Cities.

When families have stable, affordable homes, they can find jobs more easily, move up economically, do better in school, and stay healthy. Studies back this up. Affordable housing brings many positive effects. It promotes community development. And it boosts our local economy and our job creation.

Federal investments in affordable housing have already lifted millions of families out of poverty. Actually, five million in 2015 alone! Without help, many would live on the streets or in substandard or overcrowded conditions. Others might go without food, medicine or other basics because too much of their limited income has to pay the rent.

Quad Cities housing today

housing assistance need

Without further investments in low income housing, vulnerable people will lose their footing.

Despite their proven track record, HUD and USDA affordable housing programs haven’t gotten enough funding. What’s happened as a result? Today only a quarter of those who qualify for housing assistance get the help they need. And, the need continues to grow.

More people rent their homes than ever before. Because housing supply and rental assistance haven’t kept up with need, rents are rising everywhere. So, more families spend most of their income just keeping a roof over their heads. Homelessness rates are rising in many communities. On top of that, much of our nation’s affordable housing is deteriorating. What exists often isn’t appropriate for people with disabilities.

It’s not just us in the Quad Cities. Every state and congressional district is affected.

What to do?

We wish there was an easy answer. Since every community is different, so are their housing needs. But, we do know that we have to:

  • save and restore the affordable housing that we do have;
  • create more units of affordable housing for low income families; and
  • increase rental assistance and other programs that help make housing affordable.

None of that can happen without federal investment in affordable housing.

But, the Budget Control Act of 2011 decreased funding for affordable housing and community development programs by imposing low federal spending caps. These spending caps limit Congress’s power to invest in housing solutions. Just one example is that HUD housing and community development funding was $4.3 billion lower in 2016 than in 2010.

Result? It’s harder to house low income seniors, people with disabilities, families with children, and other vulnerable folks. Any further budget cuts—such as those we’re facing in the proposed federal budget–will undermine even more of the federal safety net for housing.

What’s on the horizon for federal housing assistance?

housing cuts bar graph

Federal investments in low income housing, already on the decline, are slated for caps in 2018. Worse, the proposed budget will reduce that further (dark blue bar at right).

Since the Budget Control Act went into effect, Congress made some short-term agreements to increase spending beyond the budget caps. These agreements provided very limited budgetary relief. They also required parity for defense and non-defense spending (cuts to one should mean equal cuts to the other). That helped. It temporarily eased the pressure on affordable housing. But low spending caps will return in the 2018 fiscal year, unless the White House and Congress act again.

The budget cuts that are on the horizon threaten affordable housing and community development investments even further. (see chart, right) And that threatens millions of low income families. We need Congress to lift the spending caps and keep parity for defense and non-defense programs. That will bring the greatest highest level of funding possible for affordable housing.

The Upshot Is…

Yes, we have to work to reduce the U.S. deficit over the long-term. But balancing our budget shouldn’t be done on the backs of our low income families. Instead, we need to invest in the resources families and communities need to thrive. That builds stronger communities. And strong communities build a strong nation.


HMHI will keep you updated on ways you can help create the kind of national policy that will strengthen our nation. Visit our website frequently. We’ll keep you informed on how to protect low income families and strengthen our Quad Cities.

For more information, we recommend A Place to Call Home by the Campaign for Housing and Community Development Funding (CHCDF) of the National Low Income Housing Coalition from which the information in this article derived.

Undocumented immigrants are welcome at Shelter

IMMIGRANTSPeople experiencing homelessness who are also unauthorized immigrants face extreme marginalization. Some undocumented immigrants come to the United States fleeing violence, political unrest or environmental disaster. Others hope to rejoin family, escape a life of poverty or seek opportunity and freedom. For most, our broken immigration system gave them no legal way to come here.

All migrants are separated from the bases that normally support survival: home, family and community. So, they may have an increased risk of homelessness. Many undocumented immigrants don’t know their rights and fear deportation. Because of this, some are reluctant to seek housing assistance when they need it.

But housing is a human right. Immigrants have rights to some housing programs that get funding from the federal government. Here at Shelter, no potential participant is required to produce–or even asked for–verification of their citizenship status.

Shelter complies with the federal Personal Responsibility And Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), a welfare reform legislation passed in 1996. According to PRWORA, Shelter, as a nonprofit charitable organization providing federal public benefits, we aren’t required to verify the eligibility of program participants.

Since we don’t have to ask about immigration status, we don’t. In this way, we—and other nonprofits like us–can help create a safer environment for immigrants who are seeking services.

Immigrants: Current Political Climate

Since President Trump signed executive orders on immigration policy, immigration officials can pursue and prosecute more undocumented immigrants. Last month, several undocumented immigrants leaving a hypothermia shelter located in a church in Virginia were apprehended. Shelters around the nation want to protect the rights of at-risk clients. And they want to be ready for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) actions.

ICE still adheres to a “sensitive location policy.” It prevents immigration enforcement actions like arrests, interviews, searches and immigration-only surveillance at certain places. This includes schools, places of worship, hospitals, public religious ceremonies, and public demonstrations without prior approval–unless some circumstances create urgency. Note that those apprehended from the Virginia shelter were taken when they were across the street, off the church property. A shelter like ours is not exempt.

Humility of Mary Shelter Privacy Policy

At Shelter, we don’t give out information about the individuals staying with us unless they have specifically signed a release of information permission statement for us to keep on file. This is because we believe people have a right to privacy. In many cases this anonymity is necessary to protect them from potential abusers or other people who may take advantage of them. But, beyond that, we simply believe people have a right to privacy. We don’t have the right to take that from them.

However, we do depart with our privacy policy in the case of a request from local law enforcement, cooperating with law enforcement if a participant is suspected of criminal behavior. Shelter doesn’t regard undocumented citizenship status in that same category. We are committed to protect individuals staying with us from deportation. We have always maintained an outstanding relationship with the Davenport Police Department and will continue partnering with them to keep our community safe while still remaining committed to protecting individuals from being deported.

 

 

New Shelter Donation Hub to Open February 1

donation hubHumility of Mary Housing, Inc. (HMHI) will serve as the donation ‘hub’ for all Humility of Mary agencies including Humility of Mary Shelter effective February 1, 2017. All donations that we previously received here at Humility of Mary Shelter (HMSI) at 1016 W. 5th St. Davenport will now only be received at Humility of Mary Housing (HMHI), on 3805 Mississippi Ave. in Davenport [MAP].

Donations can be dropped off Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. At this time, we are only able to accept donations during these hours, as this is when we have staff available to accept them and sort them out. We encourage those who are unable to come during these available hours to partner with someone else that is donating, or wishes to donate, and have them bring your items with them.

By creating a central hub we can provide all our donors one convenient location for donation drop offs. This will save agency staff time and create some much-needed space for program expansion here at Shelter.

Donation Hub Needs

helpWith the expansion at Shelter and ongoing needs at Housing we anticipate a tremendous shortage of furniture in the coming months. We need small couches or loveseats, 2-4 seat dinette tables with chairs, nightstands, chest-type dressers, microwaves and table lamps. If you have any of these items to donate, please bring them to HMHI donation center.

A monetary donation of $144.00 can purchase a bed for a person experiencing homelessness. Donations can be made online on our website, by mail or by taking them to the Shelter or the new donation center. If you mail or take a Shelter donation to the administrative center or donation ‘hub,’ be sure to indicate that you intend it for us at Shelter.

We also accept donations of adult clothing, dishes, pots and pans, towels, sheets, pillows, accessories, etc. Please see this list on our website for a complete needs list.

If you have any questions, about donations, contact Patti Trapp, the Volunteer Coordinator at Humility of Mary Housing, Inc., 3805 Mississippi Avenue, Davenport IA  5280 or phone 563-326-1330. Thank you for your ongoing support!

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.

Shelter Opens Clothing Room, Needs Volunteer Help

clothing room

Shelter participants flocked to the new clothing distribution room on its first day of service.

Humility of Mary Shelter, Inc. today opened a new clothing distribution room that will provide a regular Shelter service. A room immediately inside the Shelter entrance is outfitted with an inventory of neatly folded and sorted donated items: clothing clearly marked with size, hygiene selections and other practical items. Each Monday and Wednesday mornings from 9 AM until 11 AM that room is open for all in need to select items they can use.

“The price is right,” exclaimed one delighted woman, “because everything is free!”

Many supporters in the Quad Cities area bring used clothing to the Shelter. This new clothing distribution system will get items to those who can use them more effectively. While current and past Shelter participants are eligible to receive these items, the room is also open to anyone in need.

Help Wanted!

Today Shelter staff oversaw the distribution of clothing, but they’re hoping for local volunteers to help says Jason Rockwell, Director of Shelter Operations.

“Basically, we just need someone here to see that the clothing remains neat. And a volunteer will let us know what inventory items we need to replenish at the end of the morning,” explained Jason.

“People can volunteer on a regular basis, like every Monday or every other Monday, or on a one-time basis, such as once a month.”

The room monitor will ensure that just two “customers” at any given time can select the items they need. The room is only about 150 square feet, so the two-at-a-time policy gives people the space they need to make those selections comfortably.

Clothing Room Equipment

Next week, the room will also have shelving to hold shoes. That’s in process. But, looking ahead, Jason also sees a need to provide outwear for the cold weather that’s coming.

For that, the Shelter set up a Wish List on Amazon.com, hoping to receive three commercial racks on wheels to hold winter coats. One of the three has been donated—and it’s already in service! The racks cost about $60. Jason is hoping that two more donors or groups will contribute one.

winter clothing rack

Shelter has received one of the three racks for winter clothing that they need. Donors can easily donate via Shelter’s Amazon.com Wish List. The first rack is already in use as volunteers prepare for coming winter weather.

Shelter supporters can also contribute anytime via PayPal. They can set up an automatically recurring donation on a regular basis. Monthly donations are especially important. They supply a regular, reliable source of funding.

The new clothing room saw constant use today. So, if the first day is an indicator, it appears to be a popular and useful service.

Humility of Mary Shelter: Insider Voices

Administrators, staff and participants explain what Humility of Mary Shelter means to them in a video that shares insider voices. And, they also share the Shelter’s importance to the Quad Cities Area community, in this video.

Humility of Mary Shelter provides emergency housing for single adults experiencing homelessness in the Quad Cities. Perhaps you’ve not yet had the opportunityus at Shelter. This video gives you a virtual visit, allowing you see parts of the facility, meet service providers and hear the testimony of those who are assisted.

You and/or your group or organization are welcome to visit. Do call and arrange a tour and talk. We will be happy to make you aquainted with our work. We’re all members of the Quad Cities Area community, and your support is vital to us.

 

Coffee: Critically needed

coffee: critical need

Coffee: if you need it, you need it. And, at Shelter, we really need it now for our day shelter participants.

Our day shelter is safe and climate controlled, but has few amenities. The one “frill” we offer the people who come here during the day–and also in the evening–is the comfort of a warm cup of coffee. We rely completely on outside donations to keep our pot in operation. Sometimes we receive an influx from a drive sponsored by a group or congregation. But every influx eventually depletes.

And so, today: our shelves are empty.

With coffee creamer and sugar

Our people aren’t fussy. They don’t demand any certain trademark or designer type. Any ground beans with do. Bring any size–the bigger the better, of course.

To really make someone’s day, a donation of ground sugar or nondairy creamer can turn that black brew into a real treat.

We really would appreciate your donations. Thank you!

ComedySportz teams with Shelter to present Helping With Humor

Helping With Humor

ComedySportz presents Helping With Humor to benefit Humility of Mary Shelter on May 20m 2016.

On Friday May 20th at The Establishment in Rock Island, a comedy show will turn laughter into dollars for local adults experiencing homelessness at Humility of Mary Shelter. At 7 pm, the longest running show in the Quad Cities, ComedySportz, will offer two teams of improv comedians competing against each other for points and laughs. They’ll donate forty percent of all ticket sales the Shelter in a fundraiser that’s become an annual favorite. The show is rated E for Everyone, and everyone is encouraged to come contribute to a much needed service in our community.

ComedySportz

ComedySportz staff invited HMSI employees to join them on stage at a previous program.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with ComedySportz again this year and look forward to all the laughs” says Christie Adamson, Director of Services at Humility of Mary Shelter, Inc.

Humility of Mary Shelter, Inc. provides 83 beds nightly in an overnight emergency shelter for adults who face an urgent housing need. It also manages a day shelter from 8:00 am until 6:00 pm, Monday through Friday, offering both Humility of Mary Emergency Shelter participants and members of the Quad City Area civic community a safe, climate-controlled and monitored environment. The day shelter offers an indoor common space that’s furnished with tables and chairs. A telephone is available for free local calls. The local newspaper is available as well as a listing of current employment position openings in this locality. As donations permit, coffee and snacks are available at no cost.

In addition, Humility of Mary Shelter’s Outreach Team extends a regular presence to assist those living on the streets or in other places not meant for habitation. The Outreach Team brings food, water, hygiene items, clothing and bedding. The Outreach Team also brings information for housing, healthcare and meal sites. It connects individuals on the streets with community resources and opportunities for safe housing in the Quad City Area.

Recently, HMSI was honored with a Quad City Better Business Bureau Integrity Award for outstanding commitment to fair, honest and ethical practices.

Helping With Humor 2016

ComedySportz logo“Improv and comedy are in our blood.  We are in our element, we are just creating that element as we go,” said long time ComedySportz player George “Big G” Schulz, “we are thrilled to share what we do and help out our community.”

Tickets to the show are $12 in advance and $14 at the door.  Tickets available by calling 309-786-1111, or you may purchase them online through The Establishment.

Shelter Uses Person-first Language (…or “Why we don’t help ‘the homeless’”)

person-first language

We treat each person with dignity. Our language reflects that, too.

At Shelter, we believe in person-first language. “Person-first language” puts emphasis on the person. Any person is more important than the words that describe him or her. So, for us working in the housing field, we make an effort to say “people experiencing homelessness” rather than “the homeless” or “homeless people.”

Person-first language isn’t great from a writer and editor’s point of view. It uses more words to say something we could say in just two words. But, for us, that negative is worth the positive we gain. For us, using person-first language is actually another way we can help defeat homelessness.

Using person-first language chips away some deeply embedded stereotypes. When I speak of “the homeless,” my language creates a group of people that doesn’t include myself. So that kind of language can make me feel like people experiencing homelessness are somehow quite different from me. And, after all, we’re all people, not so different at that.

Another problem with talking about “the homeless” is that there are so many different reasons that people are homeless. Speaking about “the homeless” lumps everyone together into one group. That’s really not accurate. Among our adult population at Shelter people deal with a tremendous diversity of issues. Some are unemployed or underemployed. Some struggle with substance abuse. Others are veterans. Many have health issues. Some people have been incarcerated, others have experienced victimization in many different forms. So “the homeless” really does not convey how diverse the group is that’s suffering homelessness.

Person-first language

Person-first language also helps us recall that experiencing homelessness does not define who a person is. Someone experiencing homelessness probably once had a home and, hopefully, will again have one in the future. Homelessness is something they’re undergoing or experiencing now, but it’s temporary. Each of us is much more than what we’re experiencing at any given moment. Each of us deserves the dignity of that recognition.

These are some of the reasons that we try to use person-first language at Shelter. We try to refer to the folks we serve as “people experiencing homelessness” even though it takes extra syllables. Are we perfect at it? No. We still slip and say “the homeless” sometimes. But, we keep trying. Because language creates a reality. And, we want a world where all people receive respect, regardless of what they are going through at any point in their lives. We’re all people, after all.

Welcome to Shelter’s Facebook Community!

Shelter's Facebook

We invite you to join Humility of Mary Shelter’s Facebook community: facebook.com/HumilityOfMaryShelter

Humility of Mary Shelter is forming a vibrant support community on Facebook, and we’d love for you to join it. With the assistance of an award from Facebook and ActionSprout, an online agency that supports nonprofits, we’ve nearly doubled our supporters in 2015. It’s become a place where those who value our mission have an opportunity to follow more closely the news and the local insights of assisting people who are experiencing homelessness.

This social media site gives HMSI the opportunity to thank our supporters more easily and frequently. A short video slideshow is one avenue that’s successfully expressed our gratitude. It’s received nearly 17,000 views (as of this post). We repost it here:

Facebook lets supporters and the general public easily contact us. The messaging center never closes. It gives supporters one more way to easily donate support through the “Donate Now” button. A new feature introduced in the Fall 2015, supporters are already beginning to use the feature to lend a financial hand to the Shelter’s programming. Only $10 will support one person in need of a home for one day and one night at Shelter.

“Like” us on Facebook

We encourage you to use your free account to join our online community by “Liking” us on Facebook. Learn about news affecting housing in the U.S., share in our experiences, see what others in the Quad Cities are doing to support us at Shelter–you’ll grow and be inspired. We hope to see you there!