Hope and Counting Those Experiencing Homelessness

counting homeless

Twice each year, outreach teams fan the city to find people sleeping in places not designed for habitation, such as on this porch of an abandoned Davenport house.

Twice a year, teams of volunteers spread out across the Quad Cities to count people experiencing homelessness that are living on the streets. A separate count is also completed for persons already living in shelters and enrolled in services.

Like the decennial census, federal and state officials use the count to help plan and implement services to benefit the local homeless population. The federal government defines a person as homeless when their “primary nighttime residence is a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings.”

On July 26, in the span of two hours, our teams found 22 people living in “public and private spaces not designed for human beings.” Twenty-two people in only two hours is a lot of people.

Finding and Connecting to People with No Address


Debris leads us to encampments.

Counting people experiencing homelessness differs from counting housed persons. Instead of completing a form that arrives in a mailbox, our count takes place in parks, parking lots, stairwells, abandoned buildings, and tents and encampments along creeks and waterways. Using tactics similar to those used in hiking, hunting, fishing, or looking for mushrooms in the early spring, we find people by quietly following trails of bottles and cans, food wrappers, human feces, condoms, expired prescription bottles, and used syringes.

During our interaction, we offer food, drink, a brief conversation, and referral cards. We offer shelter, a hot shower, a bottle of water, a few snacks, and our business cards. Most importantly, we offer a human connection and hope for a different future.

Team members leave each interaction also contemplating hope:

  • “I hope they will be OK.”
  • “I hope they come to the shelter.”
  • “If they come in, I hope we can help them.”
  • “I hope we can find the housing they need.”

And those hope-filled questions linger for weeks and months.

Counting Homeless: Hope for the Future

We are part of a growing community that believes a home is the foundation on which futures are born. We understand homelessness is a reversible circumstance—and not a personal characteristic. And, we understand the federal definition of homelessness falls distressingly short of addressing the solution to the problem—more housing.

There are thousands of Quad Cities residents and millions across the US who are “under-housed,” “near homeless,” and experiencing “housing instability” and “housing poverty.” Our future is interconnected with their futures. Their challenges are our challenges. Their hope has to be our hope.

Until every person has a home, we will continue to look for people in public and private spaces not designed for human living.

Christie Adamson, COO of Humility Homes and Services, Inc.

We appreciate KWQC’s local news coverage of the point-in-time survey:

Merger Name Announcement: Humility Homes and Services, Inc.

announce merger nameThe Board of Directors of Humility of Mary Housing, Inc. and Humility of Mary Shelter, Inc., are pleased to announce the agencies have merged under a new name –

Humility Homes and Services, Inc.

This strategic merger will strengthen our capacity to prevent homelessness and serve those experiencing homelessness in the Greater Quad Cities area. The merger centralizes our administrative, financial, and development functions. Humility Homes and Services commits to utilize best practices and evidence-informed programs with rigorous reporting and evaluation of all of our services. And finally, we will be able to assist with the broader efforts to coordinate and align existing programs and identify gaps in services for persons experiencing a housing crisis in the Quad Cities.

Our main office and the Fresh Start Donation Center continue to be located at 3805 Mississippi Ave., and our emergency shelter and program offices continue to be located at 1016 W. 5th St. in Davenport.

Our Legacy

The New York Times described the 1989 National March for Housing best when they wrote, “Tens of thousands of people marched on the Capitol today to protest the shortage of decent, affordable housing. They included homeless men and women, families who rent but cannot afford to buy homes, state and local officials….”

Several Sisters from the Congregation of Humility of Mary in Davenport were among the thousands that marched in DC. Moved by the Congregation’s call to build community by “working for justice within the human family and caring for earth itself,” the Sisters made the 40-hour round trip bus ride to DC. As a result, they returned inspired and strengthened in their faith to end homelessness in the Quad Cities.

Their faith and dedication turned into measurable action. Almost 30 years later, the agencies they launched own or lease 93 supportive housing apartments and operate the area’s only low-barrier, emergency shelter for single adults. The shelter provides short-term housing for up to 70 adults each night. On any given day, 200 persons– including children, parents, single adults, and veterans – can access personal hygiene products, household items, furniture, and clothes at our Fresh Start Donation Center.

Our Future

“The rent eats first,” notes Matthew Desmond in Evicted, the recent best-seller on America’s housing crisis. According to the United Way’s just published ALICE (Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed) Report, 38% of Quad-City residents must choose between paying for rent, food, health, and education. All residents need housing and food security for our Quad Cities to thrive. When everyone has a place to call home, the Quad Cities will grow stronger and prosper.

Let’s Get Started: Humility Homes and Services, Inc.

Humility Homes and Services, Inc. is committed to build upon three decades of accomplishments. In the weeks ahead, you will see changes that represent our name – including updates to signage, our online presence and monthly communications. We hope you like our changes, and as always we welcome your suggestions. We are grateful for you and that you have chosen to join us in ending homelessness.

Migration and Homelessness: Overcoming Insurmountable Obstacles

Billie Greenwood

Volunteer Billie Greenwood cared for a very tiny migrant on the Northern Mexico border with the U.S. as one of her duties at the migrant assistance center.

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.

families belong together

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.

Migration and Homelessness

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.

live in a car

Families without homes sometimes sleep in a car or van so they can stay together.

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.

Scott County’s Current Reality

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.

ALICE report

Excerpt from ALICE report shows growth in number of families in extreme poverty and also those working but not earning enough to survive.

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.

Info Session: Volunteering with Humility of Mary–June 26th

volunteersHumility of Mary Housing and Humility of Mary Shelter will be hosting a informational meeting about volunteering with the agencies on Tuesday June 26th at 10am. The informational session will take place at Humility of Mary Housing, 3805 Mississippi Ave. in Davenport. Men, women and teens are encouraged to attend.

The meeting will outline the application process, cover current short term and ongoing volunteer needs, review the upcoming Fresh Start Benefit Sale. There are many opportunities to assist us in our mission to support those facing homelessness in our community.

Volunteering hours and days are flexible to meet your busy schedule! If you are looking for a place to make a difference, please come to this meeting and learn more! Please RSVP to Patti, our volunteer coordinator: 563-326-1330.


What “Housing First” Looked Like This Week

housing first

What does “housing first” mean? It’s not always easy.

This has been an especially challenging week at Humility of Mary Housing and Shelter.  The circumstances we’ve faced remind us of the importance of radical acceptance.

When we say that we’re a “housing first” program or that we practice “radical acceptance,” people ask:

“What do you mean?”

Here’s what ‘housing first’ looks like this week:

  • When a married couple in their mid-80s shows up at our Shelter door–one in a wheelchair–and tell us, “We have nowhere to go,” our door is open.
  • When a young man aged out of the foster care system, has no family and nowhere to go, our door is open.
  • When an elderly woman who suffered a recent stroke, cannot clean or bathe herself, is restricted to a wheelchair, is dropped off at our door by a nursing home who tells us they can no longer can care for her, our door is open.
  • When a chronically homeless man enters our program who has been struggling with the disease of alcoholism, we stay with him at the hospital – – all day and night–so he doesn’t die alone. Our doors and hearts are open.

Radical acceptance requires us to respond to all who come to and through our doors with empathy and acceptance.

We believe homelessness is fundamentally a social justice issue–a reversible circumstance and not a personal characteristic.


greg boyle sj

Rev. Greg Boyle, SJ

Father Greg Boyle in Tattoos on the Heart inspires us:

“Our locating ourselves with those who have been endlessly excluded becomes an act of visible protest. Only when we can see a community where the outcast is valued and appreciated will we abandon the values that seek to exclude.”

Be Radical. Be Accepting.

Jordan School EarlyAct Students Partner to Help Our Participants

Jordan School Early Act

Students and faculty members from Jordan Catholic School in Rock Island joined forces with us last week to improve the Central Community Circle neighborhood and help our participants. Members of EarlyAct, a service club for 5th and 6th grade students that is sponsored by the Rock Island Rotary Club, gave their afternoon to garden work in the Central Community Circle Neighborhood Garden. Shelter is located in the neighborhood and maintains a small garden in the CCC Neighborhood Garden.

Prior to their volunteer work, EarlyAct students discussed homelessness and the importance of housing in their own lives.  Then they discussed Humility of Mary and the hundreds of lives we touch every day. They looked for a way to help and planned their own project.  The students decided to grow vegetables and flowers from seeds into seedling plants. During their afternoon of service, with the support of Wes Frenell, Shelter’s Permanent Housing Lead, they prepared the Shelter garden plot land. Then, they planted the garden with seedling plants and seeds they contributed. Wes and several of the Supportive Housing participants undertake the shelter plot to provide meaningful and productive activity and healthy food.

Jordan School

Students feverishly prepare the ground to plant their seeds and seedlings. Participants will add to and enjoy the fruits of these labors.

In addition, the students distributed mulch donated by the City of Davenport on the back slope of the CCC garden. This will prevent soil erosion and will protect the integrity of the rose bushes that beautify the neighborhood. Billie Greenwood, the garden coordinator exclaimed: “The garden hasn’t looked this good in several years!”

Jordan School Support

Principal Mr. Jacob Smithers, who accompanied the group, pitched in and worked also. So did faculty members and club advisors Mrs. Jennifer Heckenberry and Mrs. Kim Kroft, who also drove the students to the site in vans they borrowed from local Catholic Alleman High School.

The EarlyAct Club is self-supporting and meets twice a month under the guidance of attending faculty and Rotarian advisors. According to the school website, they carry out service projects annually for their school, local community, and/or one which furthers international understanding. In addition to this day of outdoor garden work, the students also volunteered at the Spring Fresh Start Sale, a fund raising event that benefits our participants.

Thank you Jordan Elementary, City of Davenport, Wes, and all who are helping make our neighborhood safe, beautiful, and fun for all!

EarlyAct club members smiled with accomplishment after beautifying creation in the CCC Neighborhood and at Shelter.

Traffic calming lights installed in Shelter neighborhood protect participants

stop sign

A set of flashing STOP signs creates a calmer intersection at this busy pedestrian crossing.

We’re pleased that new flashing red lights are installed and in action on the stop signs at the 6th Street, Vine Street and Ash Street intersection of the Central Community Circle neighborhood. We’re particularly grateful to Alderman Marion Meginnis, Alderman Kyle Gripp, Davenport Public Works Director Nicole Gleason and Brian Schadt of the Davenport Public Works Department for their collaborative work on making our neighborhood more pedestrian friendly. The City of Davenport is continuing to consider methods to calm traffic and protect public safety at this difficult intersection.

Humility of Mary has a lively presence in the neighborhood, as it’s the location of our Shelter, several apartments of permanent and temporary housing, and our Fresh Start Corner Closet

This intersection bears heavy pedestrian traffic because the Café on Vine, the Corner Closet and the CCC Food Pantry located directly on three of the corners with an Ecumenical Housing Development Group apartment building on another. During two nonconsecutive morning hours last October, a neighborhood observer counted 158 pedestrian crossings. Traffic calming lights make a difference, neighbors are reporting.

Traffic calming lights are one component in creating a safe environment that promotes neighborhood stability and housing. John De Taeye, Humility of Mary Director of Development, interfaced with city officials to draw attention to this neighborhood’s need. John says, “Neighborhood safety is key to neighborhood stability. And with neighborhood stability we can generate more homes for persons and families of all income levels and abilities.”

Day of Caring 2018 Renewed Shelter, Invigorated Quad Cities

Created with flickr slideshow.
On Thursday, April 17, in addition to 15 volunteers working in our Fresh Start Donation Center, 110 volunteers from John Deere, Midland Communications, and Russell Construction joined forces and spread out across Davenport in the United Way’s Day of Caring 2018. Volunteers worked at three of our 16 Humility of Mary Housing homes, the Humility of Mary Shelter, and the Humility of Mary Housing offices.
In just a few hours the groups showed the transformational power of putting our hands and hearts together to make positive change!

Day of Caring 2018 Accomplishments

The groups mowed, trimmed bushes, weeded, and cleared  brush. They planted new native grasses, seasonal and perennial flowers. Volunteers spread mulch and re-striped a parking lot. In addition, they also cleaned the Shelter’s floors, bathrooms, laundry room, washed windows and common areas.
The Spring Day of Caring volunteer projects across the Quad Cities included reading with students at elementary schools, spending time and playing games with kids, staffing a mobile food pantry, helping at a financial literacy fair for high school students, creating a greenhouse at a school, beautification projects, and much more.
Our thanks to everyone who came out to lend a hand!
day of caring 2018

Team of volunteers from John Deere deep clean the day room of our Shelter on the United Way Day of Caring 2018,

QC Housing Advocates Press Conference Notes National Housing Week of Action


Having survived homelessness, speaker Sheila Parker-Wilson led the group in the chant “We need the keys” as she held a model home key.

press conference

Concerned housing advocates speak at press conference

Today, housing advocates for low-income people in the Quad Cities held a press conference to bring more attention to the affordable housing crisis in the community during the 2nd annual Our Homes, Our Voices National Housing Week of Action.

The Shelter and Transitional Housing Council of the Quad Cities (STHC), a coalition of many local nonprofit groups, convened the media to announce their new Lunch and Launch series entitled “Quad Cities Housing Solutions.” The series will bring together local stakeholders in the housing situation to generate solutions.

During the week of May 1-8, advocates from across the country are coordinating activities to raise awareness around the need for greater federal investments in affordable homes and community development. Local advocates across the Quad Cities STHC insist that all people deserve an affordable home. No one should be forced to give up food and basic healthcare to keep a roof over their heads.

Speaking to this today were representatives from local nonprofits, public schools and a formerly-homeless mother. The event occurred Sister Concetta Park at 11 AM.

In Davenport and across the nation, far too many families– including low income seniors, people with disabilities, veterans, and families with children – struggle to keep a roof over their heads or are experiencing homelessness. More families are renting their homes than ever before, and our nation’s investments in affordable housing have not kept pace. As a result, rents are increasing everywhere. But, because of underfunding, three out of every four families in need of housing benefits are turned away.

More than one out of five Scott County families spend more than half of their monthly income on rent. The acceptable standard is to spend no more than a third of monthly income for housing. The local housing reality is that our neighbors are truly one illness or accident away from being evicted for inability to pay their rent. This forces them into homelessness.

Need for National Housing Week of Action

Jasmine Campbell, John De Taeye

Jasmine Campbell of Family Resources, John De Taeye of Humility of Mary Shelter and Housing

Last year, advocates and Congressional champions secured a 10% increase to federal investments in affordable housing. But threats remain. A proposed federal budget will slash affordable housing by $11 billion compared to current levels. This would increase homelessness and housing poverty in our community.

John De Taeye, Development Director for Humility of Mary Housing and Shelter and  MC of the event summarized the message:

“Instead of reducing our nation’s investments in affordable housing, we need to make a bold and sustained commitment to ensure that everyone has a safe, accessible and affordable home. Because when we invest in affordable homes, we invest in people, our communities, and America as a whole – from increased employment and economic mobility to improved health and better education.”

Lunch & Launch Series will investigate “Quad Cities Housing Solutions”

Lunch & Launch

Series will involve local stakeholders in generating solutions to affordable housing need.

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.

Why “Quad Cities Housing Solutions” Needed?

The Gap

The Gap identifies national affordable housing needs.

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, jdetaeye@humilityofmaryhousing.com.

Schedule of Events for STHC Lunch & Launch Series:

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

  • FINAL REPORT: MLK Holiday week 2019, January 21 – 25, 2019

STHC Members:

  • Bethany Children and Families
  • Center for Alcohol and Drug Services, Inc. (CADS)
  • Center for Active Seniors (CASI)
  • Community Health Care
  • Christian Care
  • City of Davenport
  • DeLaCerda House
  • Family Resources SafePath Program
  • Goodwill of the Heartland
  • HELP Regional Office of Iowa Legal Aid
  • Humility of Mary Housing, Inc.
  • Humility of Mary Shelter, Inc.
  • Project NOW
  • Rick’s House of Hope – Vera French
  • Scott County Community Services
  • Scott County Housing Council
  • Supplemental Emergency Assistance Program (SEAP)
  • St. Joseph the Worker House
  • The Salvation Army
  • Unity House
  • Vera French