Group buys homes to help homeless in Quad Cities

DAVENPORT, Iowa (AP) — Armed with grants, Humility Homes and Services plans to purchase 60 homes as part of its bid to end homelessness in the Quad-Cities, nearly doubling the organization’s housing portfolio of social services.

In total, Humility Homes has received over $4.2 million from various agencies to help address an affordable housing shortage documented by multiple Quad-Cities organizations.

“This is an important step in closing the gap we have,” said Leslie Kilgannon, director of the Quad Cities Housing Council. “We have about 6,600 units that we need in this very low income category.”

The bulk – 35 – of Humility Homes’ new housing units will be supportive housing, which combines services such as helping people with physical disabilities or health needs as well as treating mental illness or addiction. The goal of supportive housing is to keep people who are having difficulty qualifying or maintaining other housing in a stable place as they transition from emergency shelter to more permanent housing.

These units will help individuals and families for up to four years.

Executive Director Ashley Velez told the Quad-City Times that the four years isn’t a “magical timeline,” but once tenants are able to move into more permanent housing, Humility Homes can help another group of people. .

Over the past 15 years, Humility Homes has operated 20 supportive housing units, Velez said. But the need grew beyond this offer.

“There’s this slice of individuals who have remained stagnant on what we call our coordinated entry or are 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 people who we know only need a few years.”

To provide the 35 supportive housing units, Scott County awarded Humility Homes $3.1 million from its allocation 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 depend on federal housing vouchers to pay their rent.

For this, the Ryan Foundation, a philanthropic organization in Omaha, awarded Humility Homes $500,000 to purchase 12 units. A $250,000 grant from the Regional Development Authority will purchase seven units, and the Scott County Regional Authority provided $250,000 for six units.

Two grants from the Amerigroup Anthem Foundation ($50,000) and the Community Resources Corporation ($25,000) will go towards the rehabilitation of the houses.

On West 15th Street, a house converted into a three-family apartment building is expected to welcome new occupants later this year. Humility Homes purchased the converted home in March.

Inside, light wood laminate flooring and like-new cabinetry fill the kitchens. Humble Dwellings, a small nonprofit that furnishes and decorates homes for people starting over in the Quad-Cities, furnished and decorated beds, sofas and tables in the rooms for an open house that Humility Homes plans to hold with the public and stakeholders later this month.

“We want to show what we mean by affordable housing. Some people think of dilapidated housing projects. We want to show you that you would be proud to call this place home,” Velez said.

The three units – two one-bedroom 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 is coordinating with partners such as Vera French Mental Health Center in Davenport and UnityPoint’s Robert Young Center in Moline for mental health and addictions support and treatment as well as Imagine the Possibilities. , an organization in eastern Iowa that provides services to people with disabilities.

Velez added that stable housing made people feel safe, changing mindsets from purely survival mode to focusing on stabilizing and improving their lives and getting involved in the community.

She said Humility Homes was in the process of hiring four additional people to handle the extra workload: an additional maintenance worker, two service coordinators and a supervisor to oversee the housing department. Velez said the grant funding would cover the positions for the next four years and that Humility Homes would have to find new sources of funding for the additional positions at that time.

So far, Velez said, Humility Homes has purchased 24 new units for supportive, mission-focused housing, about 40% of the planned acquisition, which it hopes will be phased in over the course of the year. ‘next year. A tight housing market, however, could change those plans.

Many units in the purchase plan, Velez said, come from local owners looking to retire or downsize their portfolio. She said Humility Homes is looking for buildings and units that won’t require expensive upgrades. Some needed paint, one needed reinforced stairs, and another needed a new oven, which Humility knew in advance.

“We’ve looked at probably over 200 units so far,” Velez said. “So we’re not taking just anything. We are very careful and strategic about what we buy and how it fits into our mission, how it 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 bankrupt homeless services organization.

John Lewis went into over-leverage on building new properties and imploded. Mary’s Humility volunteered to take over the running of the organization’s emergency shelter, which continues today.

The difference, Velez said, is in the oversight of Humility’s board of directors, different administrative leadership, and the fact that Humility pays properties in full with grant money received.

“We don’t take out mortgages. We don’t take loans,” Velez said. “All these purchases are made in cash. And we buy good quality units that are already up to date or need very minor fixes. And so, we looked at the quality and those that still have 10 to 15 years of longevity or more. We look at the engine furnace, water heater, electrical, and all those very expensive items, just like buying your own house.

Rich Clewell, board member of Humility Homes & Services, said he was confident Humility Homes’ strategies and leadership would not lead to the fate suffered by John Lewis. 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 Quads. -Cities and to restore dignity and hope to those who lived through it.

“We all feel this huge responsibility,” Clewell said of the board members. “We wouldn’t want to let the sisters down in terms of what they told us we needed to do to help the homeless population of the Quad-Cities. This is why we must succeed.

Kilgannon called Humility a well-run organization and said she was happy to see governments supporting the addition of affordable housing. Recently, Davenport City Council approved the sale of 42 dispersed city-owned housing sites to three affordable housing and social service organizations.

“Between Humility and these 42 housing units, we are staying stable and increasing the number of affordable units,” Kilgannon said. “A lot of good things are happening in the area of ​​affordable housing. We just need to do more.

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