Emily Harvey, Executive Director Speech at the QC Women’s March on January 20, 2018

We are really good at hiding problems in our community.  When it comes to homelessness in the Quad Cities, we know that there are between 500 and 600 people who are homeless every single day in our community.  Last year, the Davenport Public Schools knew of at least 200 children who were homeless and were still enrolled in school and trying to attend every day.  But we are really good at making the problem of homelessness invisible in our community.  Humility of Mary Shelter has already provided over 10,000 nights of shelter within the last 6 months, ensuring people experiencing homelessness are not literally on our streets.  And we are just one of many organizations doing this work.

So why is this an issue for the women’s march?  Because, nationwide, 70% of the individuals who fall below the federal poverty level are women and children.  Because 90% of the individuals who receive benefits under the government’s Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program are single-parent moms.  Think about that for a moment.  Every time a politician talks about cutting funding to this program or adding work requirements to this program or cutting off the length of time someone can be eligible for benefits under this program – 9 times out of 10 this will affect women.

We like to think we take care of our own.  And we have social service agencies providing housing and services to individual experiencing homelessness in the Quad Cities.  But that’s just a band aid on a much bigger problem.  Here in the Quad Cities, a single-mom will wait, on average, 8 years for Section 8 housing assistance.  And if she tries to do it by herself.  Well, that same single mom working a minimum wage job in our community will have to work at least 99 hours every single week to be able to afford a 3 bedroom apartment for her family.  And that’s because we have 7,155 extremely low income households competing for 423 units of affordable housing.   We simply do not have enough affordable housing in our community.

But we cannot stop with a one-dimensional analysis of this problem.  This is a women’s march, but to truly work towards social justice, we must witness multiple perspectives.  We know that women are disproportionately negatively impacted by the problem by homelessness.  But this experience only becomes more complex for women of color, women who identify as transgender, queer, and intersex, and women who are differently abled.

Nationwide, 40% of individuals who are homeless have a diagnosed disability.  Locally, 50% of the participants Humility of Mary Shelter serves have a diagnosed mental illness.  Yet, we live in a bi-state community where one of these states – Iowa – ranks 47th in the nation due to the limited number of psychologists and psychiatrists available.  Iowa also ranks 51st in the nation, including the District of Columbia, for the number of mental health beds available to the public.  And if we look at just two of the root causes of homelessness: violence and poverty, the picture becomes even more alarming.  70% of the families served by Humility of Mary Housing identify intimate partner violence as a factor in their homelessness.  We know that women with disabilities are more likely to experience sexual violence, physical violence, stalking, psychological aggression, and control of reproductive health than women without disabilities.  Additionally, women with disabilities are 25% more likely to live in poverty than men with disabilities.  Some of this is due to the cost of health care in our country.  In 2015, medical bills forced more than 11 million people into poverty; yet Social Security payments average 44% below the federal poverty level.

Race and ethnicity are another dimension of identity and experience that are correlated with different outcomes for those experiencing homelessness.  Nationally, African Americans make up 12% of the population; yet African Americans are 42% of the nation’s homeless population.  Hispanic and Latino persons represent 12% of the national population; yet reflect 20% of the nation’s homeless population.  Native Americans are 1% of our national population; yet are 4% of our national homeless population.  Again, if we are looking at poverty and violence as factors in homelessness, we see why an intersectional approach is essential to our work.  Unfortunately, we know that Native American women experience the highest rates of poverty in our country, followed closely by black women.  For every dollar a white non-hispanic male makes, a white woman makes 78 cents, yet a black woman makes only 64 cents.  Black lesbian couples experience a 21% poverty rate compared to a 4% poverty rate for white lesbian couples.  And women of color, especially black women, experience the highest rates of intimate partner violence.

For women who identify as transgender, queer, and intersex, the system of services created to address the problem of homelessness are frequently sites of discrimination and abuse.  Nationwide, 47% of transgender, queer, and intersex women who have stayed in emergency shelters left early due to the treatment they received; 25% of transgender, queer, and intersex women reported being physically assaulted in homeless shelters; and 22% reported being sexually assaulted in shelters.  The criminalization of homelessness is another area that has disproportionately impacted transgender women.  In general, homeless veterans, youth, women, and individuals of color are more likely to be arrested and incarcerated than white homeless individuals.  Yet, transgender women, especially transgender women of color are more likely to experience physical violence when interacting with law enforcement.

I know I’ve painted a rather depressing picture of the systems individuals and families find themselves caught in when they are homeless.  So what do we do with this information?  Most importantly, we must remember that this information reflects deficits within social structures.  It does not represent the agency and resourcefulness demonstrated by the individuals, families, and communities who find themselves forced to navigate these social structures on a daily basis in order to survive.  We recognize and honor the fact that women who are experiencing homelessness are living their lives everyday with courage and resilience.  Last year at Humility of Mary Housing, 80% of the families who left our program moved into permanent housing.  These families overcame the trauma and challenges of homelessness, poverty, violence, and everything else that was thrown at them and moved on to create safe, lasting homes of their own.  At Humility of Mary Shelter, we have 50 permanent supportive housing units full of individuals who are maintaining safe, long-term housing and are fully integrated into neighborhoods throughout our community.

In addition to using an empowerment based approach to our work, we look for like-minded allies in movements also working toward achieving human rights for all persons.  And we sometimes develop relationships with unexpected partners.  Humility of Mary Shelter has partnered with local police departments to create a system for law enforcement to transport individuals experiencing homelessness directly to our emergency shelter 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Our community has several ordinances criminalizing homelessness, but now, instead of arresting someone for the offense of sleeping in public or loitering or begging, law enforcement can bring them to our shelter. Within the last 6 months, at least 50 individuals have sought shelter, potentially avoiding arrest, through the partnership we have with local law enforcement.

We must also advocate for policies that protect everyone, such as HUD’s Equal Access Rule, which bans discrimination against transgender individuals in emergency shelters.  And we must hold each other accountable to ensure these policies are implemented.

And finally, in order for the women’s march to succeed, we must listen with open hearts and minds to the diversity of experience within this movement.

Infrastructure Advocacy

As the President and Congress begin to negotiate rebuilding the US infrastructure, let’s remind them affordable homes and safe neighborhoods are at the foundation of a community’s infrastructure.

Nationwide, for every 100 of the lowest income households, there are just 35 rentals homes affordable and available to them. Right here in Scott County Iowa, there are 7,155 households earning less than $20,150.00 per year but only 423 housing rental housing units available to those families.

Families are being forced into unsustainable leases, paying more than 50% of their monthly income, or doubling and tripling up with family members and friends.

Affordable rental homes for working families, seniors, and people with disabilities is foundational infrastructure.

Any new infrastructure investment plan must include increased funding to the national Housing Trust Fund, a tool designed to increase the supply of affordable homes for those with the greatest needs; an expansion of Housing Choice Vouchers to help connect struggling families to areas of opportunity; and resources to repair and rehabilitate the nation’s public housing stock to preserve this asset for current tenants and future generations.

New and repaired roads and bridges must connect families living in decent, affordable homes to jobs, services and communities.

See link for more information on ways to impact Congress!


Urgent Need!

We are in need of baby cribs and toddler beds for new families that have recently moved into the Humility of Mary Housing Program. If you have a clean, gently used crib or toddler bed, with all the parts and hardware, please consider donating it to us.

Donations are received at the Fresh Start Donation Center, Monday through Friday 8am to 4pm, 3805 Mississippi Ave, in Davenport. Please call Patti at 563-326-1330 for more information. Thank you!

Lockers Help Participants Feel Safe, Stable, and a Foundation for Success!

Special thank you to our community partners at Davenport Schools for donating another 40 lockers from the former JB Young campus.  The School District has donated 80 lockers to the Humility of Mary Shelter since last fall.  Participants in our Shelter program will now have a locker to safely store their possessions while working with Shelter staff to connect to services and find affordable, long-term housing that meets their needs.

The awesome team at Two Men and a Truck offered pro bono help in moving and installing the lockers for the Shelter.  Two Men and a Truck is making a big difference across the US in being a part of the solution to end homelessness.  Thank You!  




Former participant leads drive to collect pantry items for HMHI families

Sheila Parker
Sheila Parker organized a drive to collect pantry items for the HMHI families at her employment, Shell Gas Station on Brady in Davenport.

Sheila Parker is a single parent of four daughters. During a challenging time in her life in 2007, Sheila found Humility of Mary Housing as a resource to help stabilize her housing situation, support her in raising her daughters, and find encouragement to return to school. Today, Sheila has degrees as a Certified Nurses Assistant (CNA) and Medical Assistant (MA). She sustains two careers – – working at the Shell Gas Station at 3622 N. Brady in Davenport and running her own business providing home-based support with the elderly. Three of Sheila’s four daughters have graduated from college. Her youngest will graduate soon.

Since the day after Thanksgiving, Sheila and other staff at the Shell Gas Station at 3622 N. Brady Street in Davenport have collected household and clothes items for Housing and Shelter participants. Over the last two weeks, Shell Gas Station collected six large totes of items, valued at over $400.00!

“I just wanted to help make sure Humility of Mary participants had all the things I had during my rough time,” Sheila said.
We sincerely thank the Shell Gas Station for support, Sheila for leadership and generosity and all their customers who contributed for their holiday spirit. They will directly enrich the lives of those who are in need.

HMHI’s Mission Spreads Goodness Near and Far

hmhi mission By Karen Bibee

Karen is a regular volunteer at the Fresh Start sales at Humility of Mary Housing. She composed this article and ,unsolicited, she sent it to us with this note: “Because of the seemingly hopelessness of recent tragic weather events, violence, hatred and lack of human understanding and compassion, I feel compelled to write…”

Humility of Mary Housing is an organization that provides homeless families the opportunity to secure safe housing and resources to improve their lives.  One creative way the agency has found to raise funds to help families is through the biannual Fresh Start Benefit Sale; held in September and April. 

All year donations from individuals and businesses are received at the HMH Donation Center located at 3805 Mississippi Ave., in Davenport. Items are sorted by volunteers and AARP workers into areas for housing needs for families in the program, needs for Humility of Mary Shelter for homeless individuals, a ‘boutique area’ for surplus items and special sale items.

When a family enters the program; furniture, clothing and household items are moved into an apartment.  Fifty weeks of the year, the family, free of charge, may select other things from the ‘boutique area.’  During the other two weeks of the year, the sale area is prepared by an amazing, diverse team of volunteers and AARP workers. Special donations such as antiques, artwork and large furniture are added to the ‘boutique area’. Money received from the sales is used to purchased goods and services needed by HMHI families. 

Most people familiar with HMHI know this information.  What people may not know about the Fresh Start Benefit Sales are the people who buy and/or benefit from the Sale; the woman who buys the extra winter clothing and sends it to a Native American reservation in North Dakota. The shopper who buys fabric remnants to make quilts for newborns in local hospitals. The woman who purchases yarn to make comfort caps for a woman recovering from a mastectomy and radiation treatment. The young teacher’s aide who buys jeans for the classroom, so children aren’t embarrassed when an ‘accident’ occurs at school. The unemployed family who buys coats, mittens and shoes for their children for 50 cents and repeatedly thanks the cashier volunteer. The young couple starting out with little money who giggle as the buy reasonably priced furniture.

Being a part of the Sale allows me the opportunity to hear and see how HMHI’s mission to provide for homeless families trickles down goodness into the corners of many other lives. It allows me the opportunity to work, interact, laugh and yes even sweat with a wonderful team of volunteers, AARP workers and Patti the Volunteer Coordinator. 

Put all together it gives me hope. I am proud to say that, “I am an HMH volunteer!”


Have a Heart for the Homeless Luncheon: February 3, 2018

Have a Heart Luncheon

Have a Heart Luncheon info

Your presence at this luncheon will support people who gain strength in their battles against homelessness at Humility of Mary Housing, Humility of Mary Shelter and Christian Care.

You can purchase your ticket online at the Christian Care’s secure PayPal site, CLICK HERE. 
and mention “Have A Heart” on the PayPal site.

Please support the people who are sponsoring this event to help our cause.

Take action today to end homelessness

The Coalition to End Homelessness has made it very easy for any U.S. citizen with ten minutes and an internet connection to take action to end homelessness. They will even place the call for you.

Call (preferably) or send an email through their website: http://cqrcengage.com/naeh/advocacy?0

They’ll ensure that the correct Congressional official hears your voice. 

You can help house 40,000 more people next year!

“The Way I See It,” Reflections by Jenica, a Teen Participant

jottings by JenicaJenica, one of our teen participants, agreed to share her thoughts about her senior year in high school. In this segment, she writes about all that she and her mom have experienced. She also has dreams for her future. “Jenica’s Jottings” is the first part of Humility of Mary Housing and Shelter’s “In Our Own Voices” campaign. The writings of our participants will lift up into full view the resilience and courage our participants demonstrate daily.

Hello, my name is Jenica. I’m 17 years old and currently attend West High School. At a very young age, I was introduced to a very unstable life. But today I live a very stable and healthy life. Humility of Mary is to thank for this.

Growing up for me was hard. My mother was an alcoholic as well as a drug addict. At the time I wasn’t aware of what was going on. But, I knew I didn’t have that perfect life shown on TV or the family life I saw other kids my age having. Through the years I went to a lot of schools, missed a lot of schools, and never really had a true home. I was always waiting to move, wondering how long I would be at this house or sometimes even who was I going to live with next.

teen girl
Jenica shares how life becomes more complicated for a teen without a stable home.

Even as my mother was sober and was involved in her programs, working the steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, not everyone was willing to give us a home. Due to her record, other people didn’t see the change I had. They weren’t willing to overlook her felonies and give her a chance. But thanks to Sandy, Rebecca, Rosie, and many others in the Humility of Mary program we were granted that opportunity.

Jenica’s life — New opportunity

It was late May 2014, the end of my middle school career and I was going into high school a few month later.  We were moving into our new house–not living with anyone, not fearful of being rejected. Mom got a new job. This lifted so much stress off of even me. Being a kid in my generation is tough. Everyone judges. And bouncing from home to home, living off of people and such isn’t the best way to make friends.

Moving here helped me with new opportunities. It made me more comfortable, less ashamed. Humility of Mary Housing helped with school supplies food, sometimes even clothing. They took us in and gave my mother and me a chance when no one else did. This made the difference. Who knows if I would be doing this good in high school without them?

Now I maintain around a B average and take college classes. I need 1.75 credits in order to graduate. Humility of Mary helped me to become the young woman I am today, and for that I am so very grateful.