“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