Kudos to Humility Homes and Services and other organizations that collaborated to ensure adults needing emergency overnight shelter this winter in Davenport will have it. Last year, 400 adults who had nowhere else to go took shelter at the Quad Cities Winter Emergency Shelter.
What about individuals seeking shelter throughout the 22 counties in the Diocese of Davenport? In this Advent season, how are we making room at the inn, temporarily and permanently?
A partnership of agencies in the Quad Cities raced to raise the necessary funds to keep the Quad Cities’ only “overflow” shelter open this winter — from Dec. 1 through April 15. Humility Homes and Services (HHS), founded by the Congregation of the Humility of Mary, will manage the shelter this year. The agency already operates a 70-bed, emergency shelter and has the expertise to manage the Quad Cities Winter Emergency Shelter west of downtown Davenport.
Meanwhile, the Quad Cities Housing Cluster and Scott County Housing Council (HHS is a partner) are coordinating efforts on a Winter Emergency Shelter Plan “to make homelessness rare and brief.” That’s a good start to making temporary room at the inn.
These initiatives respond to immediate needs. The late Msgr. Marvin Mottet would remind us that we need to attend to both feet of social action: meeting such needs and working for systemic change. In this case, we are also called to address the affordable housing crisis throughout Iowa.
Iowa Housing Partnership reports in its “Out of Reach Iowa 2018/The High Cost of Housing” study that “minimum wage earners must work more than 50 hours a week to pay for a one-bedroom apartment anywhere in the state.” Even an efficiency apartment would require these workers to put in more than 40 hours of work per week.
An Analysis of Housing in Iowa, Sept. 2017, Institute for Community Alliance Report states that in Clinton County, 2,625 people are looking for affordable housing. Just 337 affordable units are available. In Muscatine County, 1,835 people are looking for affordable housing; 110 units are available. In Scott County, 7,155 people are looking for affordable housing; 423 units are available. How are we making room at the inn for them?
“Families are stronger and more stable when they have a place to call home. Neighborhoods are safer when people are not constantly moving in and out of neighborhoods,” says John De Taeye, director of development for HHS. “There’s all kinds of research that shows that kids are healthier and more productive in school when they don’t have to worry about which hotel or car or parking lot they’re going to have to sleep in that night. … Our regular shelter is not the solution. We have to have more affordable housing.”
Using the analogy of a rapidly filling bathtub to describe the affordable housing crisis, “We can’t drain the bathtub fast enough without a place to go,” says Christie Adamson, chief operating officer of HHS. Access to living-wage jobs, good schools and mental health services will help slow but not stop the flow unless housing is affordable. How are we as a society making room at the inn, especially for people with barriers such as a criminal record? Consider these possible responses:
• Landlords: are you willing to offer rental units to people with limited income or other barriers?
• If you know a landlord: Ask her/him about renting to people searching for affordable housing.
•Ask your county board of supervisors to prioritize funding for its county housing trust fund.
•Ask your city council members what they are doing to create affordable housing in their communities.
•Ask your community what it is doing to reinvest in and stabilize neighborhoods.
• Visit the HHS website for more information: www.humilityhomes.org.
“We are paying for housing instability and homelessness — one way or another — through our emergency rooms, our slipping outcomes in our local schools, our folks who have to work two or three or four jobs to pay rent and who can’t stay home with the kids. Or we can invest in more homes affordable to more people,” De Taeye said.
Yes, we need to make room at the inn for a temporary crisis. But just like Mary and Joseph, every family needs a permanent home in which to grow and thrive. Our faith calls us to make that possibility a reality.
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor