HHSI expands its dream with comfortable, affordable housing

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By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

Sometime in May, the three-bedroom house on West 15th Street in Davenport will welcome a family in need of a comfortable, affordable home in which to thrive. It is one of 60 units of affordable housing that Humility Homes and Services, Inc. (HHSI) has or is acquiring this year to expand the dream of its founders, the Sisters of Humility, to end homelessness.

The dream is getting a significant boost with $4.1 million in funding for HHSI to broaden its affordable housing efforts in the Quad-Cities, the nonprofit agency announced March 31. A major portion of funding is a $3,140,800 grant from Scott County America Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. The grant will allow HHSI to purchase 35 units (apartments and houses) to provide housing and supportive services to families and individuals to nurture their ability to maintain stable housing, said Ashley Velez, executive director of HHSI.

“The program will provide not only housing but supporting services to help individuals become more self-reliant and less dependent on local governmental services,” Scott County Board Chair Ken Beck told The Catholic Messenger, explaining why the board supported the funding. “The goal is for integration into the community for independent living, a win-win for all. I believe the timeframe from entry into the program to integration is four years.”

The remaining $1 million in funding is for HHSI’s Mission-Focused Housing (participants are self-sufficient but struggle to find affordable housing) and comes from several different sources. The Ryan Foundation of Omaha granted $500,000 for the purchase of 12 units for HHSI’s affordable housing rental program. The Regional Devel­opment Authority (RDA) granted $250,000 for the purchase of seven units and Scott County Regional Authority (SCRA) granted $250,000 for the purchase of six units. Amerigroup’s Anthem Foundation also granted $50,000 for HHSI to use toward rehabilitating new units.

Households that qualify for the Mission-Focused Housing have experienced barriers to renting apartments or homes because of prior evictions or other challenges. HHSI believes these barriers should not prevent people from securing decent, affordable housing. Altogether, the 60 apartments and houses will assist households that do not qualify for federal or state housing programs. Households with Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers also are eligible to apply for HHSI housing.

Filling in the gaps

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“We have about 15 families or individuals on our wait list for Mission-Focused Housing,” Velez said. Individuals and families needing supportive housing in February totaled 32 (27 individuals and five families). In addition, HHSI plans to reach out to local school districts to help families who “don’t always meet the legal definition of homelessness as the government doesn’t count those who are couch surfing.”

Earlier this month, Velez stopped by the newly purchased house on West 15th Street with Sister Johanna Rickl, president of the Congregation of the Humility of Mary. Both women admired the neutral gray and white tones of the home’s rooms, the vinyl flooring that looks like wood and the expansive bay window in a spacious room on the main floor. They imagined the family that would live here, filling the cabinets and walk-in closets with their possessions and laying claim to two larger bedrooms and the much smaller third bedroom.

“What we’re seeing and hearing is that there are a lot of large families in need of affordable homes,” Velez said. “Bigger units are more expensive for these families.” That is why HHSI is purchasing houses and apartments, to offer families an option within their means.

Affordable housing is a critical need throughout the Diocese of Davenport and the nation. The Quad Cities Housing Cluster reported a gap of around 6,645 affordable units for households in the Quad Cities alone (August 2020).

“We’ve looked at 37 buildings and purchased seven since January. Three are houses and the other four are multiple-family homes,” Velez said. Church groups “adopt” some of the HHSI properties, helping with yard work and interior cleaning and refurbishing.

The dream to eliminate homelessness began 32 years ago when the Congregation of the Sisters of the Humility of Mary, following research, reflection and community input, opened its first apartment building to provide affordable homes to four families. Through the years, HHSI acquired more properties to benefit individuals and families in the Quad Cities. Today, more than 350 persons participate collectively in HHSI’s shelter and housing programs each day.

Honoring the CHM legacy

“At HHSI we believe that housing is a human right and everyone deserves a safe, affordable place to call home,” Velez said. Collaboration with business and nonprofit partners, along with steadfast community support makes it possible. “The capital investment to fill the gap of affordable housing in the Quad Cities shows that others are also committed to ensuring that everyone has a place to call home locally.”

“Jesus reminds us that we are called to care for each other. Humility Homes and Services is one way the CHM sisters responded to that call in relation to the most vulnerable among us,” Sister Rickl said. “Lack of affordable housing is a great injustice in our Quad-City community.  We are grateful that so many people have come forward to be partners in our dream of securing a home for every person.  Their support allowed a leap from the first year’s four families housed to last year’s more than 1,100 persons served by HHSI. With continuing partnership from generous donors and these grants, the dream goes forward.”

Now the sisters are entrusting their dream to a new generation of dreamers at HHSI, while maintaining a presence on the Board of Directors and continuing to provide financial support. “We would not be here today without the local support and the Sisters of the Humility of Mary,” Velez said. “We are their legacy … and will continue to work alongside them and in honor of them.”

HHSI’s persuasive case for ARPA funds

During the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Humility Homes and Services, Inc. (HHSI) made a presentation to the Scott County Board of Supervisors in Davenport seeking funding for its supportive housing efforts. The meeting took place virtually on Oct. 20, 2020.

HHSI representatives presented information that showed:

• People experiencing chronic homelessness often have high utilization of non‐housing systems such as shelters, jails and hospitals.

• Chronic homelessness costs local governments about $60,000 per person per year, for utilizing non‐housing systems.

• Supportive housing is an evidence‐based intervention that houses people experiencing chronic homelessness, have multiple barriers to employment and disabling conditions. Tenants pay a share of their costs, no more than 30% of their income, toward rent. HHSI provides supportive services, such as case management, transportation and rental assistance. Supportive housing focuses on integration into the community for independent living.
HHSI reported that supportive housing reduces costs in healthcare, hospitalizations and substance use treatment and in criminal justice, jail stays and emergency shelter. Moving on strategies focus on independent living after services.

The nonprofit agency requested $3.1 million in funding for 35 units (20 individuals and 15 families) and committed to leveraging $1 million in private funding for an additional 25 units of housing. The Scott County Board approved the request earlier this month and HHSI received private funding from other sources for $1 million toward its affordable housing efforts. To support HHSI, visit
humilityhomes.org


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