Group buying housing units to help homeless in Quad Cities – Midland Daily News

DAVENPORT, Iowa (AP) — Armed with grant money, Humility Homes and Services plans to buy 60 housing units in its bid to end homelessness in the Quad-Cities, nearly doubling the social service organization’s housing portfolio.
In all, Humility Homes received more than $4.2 million from various agencies to help address an affordable housing shortage documented by several Quad-Cities organizations.
“This is an important step in addressing the gap we have,” said Leslie Kilgannon, director of the Quad Cities Housing Council. “We have about 6,600 units we need in that extremely low-income category.”
The bulk — 35 — of Humility Homes’ new housing units will be supportive housing, which combines services such as help with physical disabilities or health needs as well as mental illness or substance abuse treatment. The goal of supportive housing is to keep people who face challenges qualifying or keeping other housing in a stable place while they transition from an emergency shelter to more permanent housing.
Those units will help individuals and families for up to four years.
Executive Director Ashley Velez told the Quad-City Times that the four years wasn’t a “magic timeline” but once tenants were able to move into more permanent housing, Humility Homes can help another group of people.
For the past 15 years, Humility Homes operated 20 units of supportive housing, Velez said. But the need has grown beyond that supply.
“There’s this bracket of individuals who have remained stagnant on what we call our coordinated entry or they’re coming back into homelessness because you’re not putting them in the right housing situation,” Velez said. “For this funding, we’re going to be able to target individuals who we know only need a couple of years.”
To provide the 35 supportive housing units, Scott County awarded Humility Homes $3.1 million from its allotment of federal COVID-19 relief funds from the American Rescue Plan Act.
The other 25 units will provide more permanent affordable housing options for low-income families, including households that rely on federal housing vouchers to pay rent.
For that, the Ryan Foundation, a philanthropic organization in Omaha, awarded Humility Homes $500,000 to buy 12 units. A $250,000 grant from the Regional Development Authority will purchase seven units, and Scott County Regional Authority granted $250,000 for six units.
Two grants from Amerigroup Anthem Foundation ($50,000) and Community Resources Corporation ($25,000) will go toward rehabbing homes.
On West 15th Street, a house converted into a three-family building, is likely to greet new occupants later this year. Humility Homes purchased the converted house in March.
Inside, light wood-like laminate flooring and like-new cabinets fill the kitchens. Humble Dwellings, a small nonprofit that furnishes and decorates homes for people starting over in the Quad-Cities, arranged and decorated beds, couches and tables in the bedrooms for an open house Humility Homes plans to hold with the public and stakeholders later this month.
“We want to showcase what we mean by affordable housing. Some people think of run-down housing projects. We want to show you, you would feel proud to call this place home,” Velez said.
The three units — two one-bedrooms and one two-bedroom — will become three of the organization’s 35 supportive housing units, where households would pay no more than 30% of their income for rent.
Velez said Humility Homes coordinated with partners such as Davenport-based Vera French Mental Health Center and UnityPoint’s Robert Young Center in Moline for mental health and substance-abuse support and treatment as well as Imagine the Possibilities, an eastern Iowa organization that offers services for people with disabilities.
Velez added that stable housing made people feel safe and secure, changing mindsets from purely survival mode to focus on stabilizing and improving their lives and getting involved in the community.
She said Humility Homes was in the process of hiring four extra people to manage the added workload: an extra maintenance worker, two service coordinators and a supervisor to oversee the housing department. Velez said grant funding would cover the positions for the next four years and Humility Homes would need to find new sources of funding for the added positions at that time.
So far, Velez said, Humility Homes has purchased 24 new units for supportive and mission-focused housing, about 40% of the planned acquisition, which she said she hopes will be phased over the course of the next year. A tight housing market, though, could change those plans.
Many of the units in the purchase plan, Velez said, are from local landlords looking to retire or reduce their portfolio. She said Humility Homes looked for buildings and units that would not require costly upgrades. Some have needed painting, one needed reinforced stairs and another needed a new furnace, which Humility knew ahead of time.
“We’ve looked at probably over 200 units so far,” Velez said. “So, we’re not just taking anything. We’re being very cautious and strategic on what we are buying and how that fits into our mission, how that fits into the housing stock.”
Recalling the collapse of John Lewis Community Services in 2008, Velez said Humility Homes is in a much more stable financial position to expand than the failed homeless services organization.
John Lewis over-leveraged debt on building new properties and imploded. Humility of Mary volunteered to take on running the organization’s emergency shelter, which it continues today.
The difference, Velez said, lies in oversight by Humility’s board, different administrative leadership and the fact that Humility is paying in full for the properties with the grant money received.
“We’re not taking out mortgages. We’re not taking out loans,” Velez said. “All of these are cash purchases. And we’re purchasing good-quality units that are already up to date or need very minor fixes. And so, we looked at quality and ones that still have 10 to 15 years of longevity or more. We look at engine furnace, hot water heater, electrical and all those really expensive items, just like if you’re going to purchase your own home.”
Humility Homes & Services board member Rich Clewell said he was confident Humility Homes’ strategies and leadership wouldn’t lead to the fate John Lewis suffered. Ultimately, he said, the goal of the organization, which was started by the Sisters of Humility of Mary 35 years ago, is to end homelessness in the Quad-Cities, and restore dignity and hope to those who’ve experienced it.
“We all feel this tremendous responsibility,” Clewell said of the board members. “We would not want to let the sisters down in terms of what they’ve told us we need to do to help the homeless population of the Quad-Cities. That’s why we have to succeed.”
Kilgannon called Humility a well-run organization and said she’s glad to see governments support adding affordable housing. Recently, the Davenport City Council approved the sale of 42 scattered city-owned housing sites to three affordable housing and social service organizations.
“Between Humility and these 42 housing units, we are holding steady and increasing the number of affordable units,” Kilgannon said. “There’s a lot of good stuff happening in affordable housing. We just need to do more of it.”


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