If Humility Homes & Services can’t raise over $300,000 by Nov. 1, it will not expand capacity in its Davenport homeless shelter Dec. 1, as it does each winter.

Humility executive director Ashley Velez said she’s gotten commitments of about $90,000 so far from local funding sources (including city governments and the Downtown Davenport Partnership). But even if the capacity is increased in the year-round shelter (at 1016 W. 5th St., Davenport), the nonprofit and the Quad Cities Housing Council are ending that practice after 2024.

The Humility Homes & Services shelter is at 1016 W. 5th St., Davenport.

Humility took over the shelter (in conjunction with the Quad Cities Housing Council) five years ago after King’s Harvest said they were going to close it, Velez said. That’s when they put together a five-year plan to phase out the increased winter capacity, which requires significant increases in staff, equipment and materials like bedding and blankets.

“The intention was to close the shelter, the need for the winter shelter within five years, because there were other working arms that are working, but there’s not enough investment overall,” she said on Monday, noting this also was part of a larger 10-year plan.

The other arms are funding, services, other programs, more supportive housing, and creation of new units. Even if the winter capacity is stopped, the shelter would still operate year-round, with an 80-person cap.

It’s a QC plan that’s aligned with the Q2030 strategic plan, Velez said. “Our region is a lot about regionalism and you can’t do regionalism unless you regionalize social services as well,” she said.

They won’t expand the shelter this winter unless they get funding, “because we can’t — nor should we — take all the brunt of the financial burden of this,” Velez said. 

The increased capacity typically goes from 80 (year-round) to 130 in the winter, by opening the basement level with its own restrooms. They projected a larger amount to raise this year, because they want to end it and need to show they can do this together, Velez said.

Humility serves on average 350 individuals and families per night between their shelter and housing programs. Their website says they “routinely serve the most vulnerable in our community and a disproportionate amount of people who identify as racial or ethnic minority compared to the general population in the Quad Cities. 63% of HHSI participants report at least one debilitating disability (mental health, PTSD, physical, etc.)”

As part of a temporary solution to homelessness during inclement weather, Humility continues to use the reconfigured lower-level space of 1016 W. 5th St., for additional winter shelter and seasonal influx, which extends from Dec. 1 to April 15.

Humility’s administrative offices are at 519 Fillmore St., Davenport (photo by Jonathan Turner).

Street Outreach teams and diversion strategies continue in full force throughout the year, and Humility has seen a continual decrease in the number of people served through the winter shelter. However, the needs continue to be significant, according to a document sent to the potential funding sources (including local foundations).

As the fifth and “final” year of the “functional zero plan” begins, the challenges surrounding the use and operation of the Winter Emergency Shelter are becoming increasingly difficult to overcome for the QC Housing Council in support of both Humility Homes & Services, and Salvation Army.

“The lack of resources, limited availability of safe, affordable housing in the Quad Cities community, the increasing costs of operations in managing this expanded shelter, the trends in the workforce and the general higher level of needs for those seeking services equates to expenditures that exceed past available funding,” the Humility letter says.

“The current resources of our community seem to have been exhausted to operate this additional emergency shelter especially when there is no investment from all stakeholders to address the systematic issues at hand.

“Both agencies are suffering from staffing fatigue and shortages, fewer number of persons served overall from last year, but numbers since April 15th in the shelters have increased and ultimately less individuals housed, and systematic goals that are not realistically obtainable,” the letter says. “At this time, despite the decrease in number of persons served, the possibility of the winter shelter to open on Dec. 1st, 2023, is in question.”

Humility executive director Ashley Velez

This would be the final year of the 5-year plan. “We can’t keep doing this,” Velez said. “If we’re not able to actually end it this year, then we’re perpetuating the exact same thing. At some point, we’ve got to stop.”

“We’re saying as a community, we’re not OK with it. We want to move the needle,” she said. 

Drop in shelter numbers

Velez (who is vice chair of the Housing Council) said the winter shelter had served 386 people in 2018-19, and that number has steadily declined, to 144 last winter.

The implementation of the winter shelter adds a minimum of four additional full-time seasonal staff positions, an additional safety officer, and an increase in the demand for essential services, and basic needs.

The cost of operations for the winter of 2022-2023 for Humility Homes & Services was $221,326, Velez said. This does not include the cost of additional repairs having to be made at the shelter during those months nor does that include the year-round street outreach services.

Last year’s funding allocations/revenue dedicated to the winter shelter totaled $204,106 from money raised from the community including private, foundations and government resources.

Humility had to make up the difference in lost revenue from specified donor dollars made to the overall agency leaving the agency cost burden for operating the community’s Winter Emergency Shelter, Velez said.

Velez is the vice chair of the Quad Cities Housing Council, which includes representatives of business and local government, Christian Care, United Way and the Davenport NAACP.

“We are at a staggering deficit that does not account for the forecasted increase in need this coming winter season. Looking at cost to open and operate this year, the budgeted amount is $352,883,” the funding document says.

The increased difference this year is for additional staffing compared to past years, and creating permanent housing solutions, she said.

The shelter employs about 15 people year-round, which increases to 24 from December through April, Velez said.

“It’s very hard to say and do, because we have so much compassion,” she said. “We eventually have to say as an agency, ‘Enough is enough.’ We have to make a change; that’s where we’re at right now.”

“With the housing crisis and everything, as a community we’ve done a really good job doing year-round street outreach,” Velez said.

More supportive housing

The shelter numbers have dropped partly due to the fact that Humility has created an additional 57 units of supportive housing (there were 20 four years ago) in the past year, Velez said. Those are mainly in Davenport and Scott County, but Humility plans to have 15 more supportive housing units this coming year in the Illinois QC, she said.

Humility supportive housing at 1461 W. 7th St., Davenport.

Of the 144 people served during last winter in the shelter, 22 have been housed, eight relocated to other shelters, 118 are in unknown destinations, and three were incarcerated, Humility found.

Supporting housing helps divert people from homelessness into units leased by Humility, and they only pay based on their income level or ability to pay. If they have no income, the rent is free, for example. Humility provides case management services they need.

The average person they serve has been homeless three to four years, she noted.

Each person doesn’t have a time limit in the shelter, but it’s based on a “housing first model.”

“Housing first means that you believe in the inherent worth of a person,” Velez said. The supportive housing units are a combination of those owned or leased by Humility.

“We’re the only low-barrier shelter in the Quad Cities,” she said, noting that means there are virtually no requirements for people to meet to stay in the shelter.

Humility supportive housing at 1506 24 1/2 St., Rock Island.

“You don’t have to be sober; you don’t have to show us ID to come in — it’s the housing-first approach,” Velez said. “If you need a place to stay, we’re going to give you a place to stay.”

The last count of QC homeless people (including those living in shelters) was 551 in January 2023, she said.

Other local shelters are considered a high-barrier shelter, Velez said. Residents have to have an ID, be sober and obtain a job within a certain period of time, for example.

“There’s nothing wrong with that model and we need that sort of thing for the person, but it comes down to — especially in winter emergency, they don’t expand,” she said. “We’re the only ones that look to expand at all. That’s the issue.”

Low and high barriers

Humility serves low-barrier and high-barrier clients, as well as chronically homeless. Low barrier is defined as people that have some income/benefits; experienced minor barriers to housing, (i.e. family conflict, emergency, etc.) that lead them to an emergency shelter stay of five nights or less.

This population has decreased due to stability funds that Street Outreach workers access year-round to ensure people do not need to come into the Winter Emergency Shelter each year.

High barrier is defined as those who had no income/benefits, experienced multiple barriers to housing (i.e. disability, substance use, primarily experienced homelessness for the first or second time,) and accessed emergency shelter for 6-32 nights. These people are on the cusp of falling into needing a supportive housing intervention, but many are being housed through Humility’s Rapid Rehousing program.

“As a community, we have not done a great job of addressing the high-barrier need,” Velez said. “This is where we don’t have a great plan to address this number, because of lack of affordable housing, lack of investment from cities and counties. That is where we need policy change and investments.”

Humility Homes attended a town hall meeting Oct. 24, 2023 at Davenport’s Zion Lutheran Church, organized by the Quad Cities Tenant Alliance and Quad Cities Interfaith to call for more investment in safe, affordable housing.

Velez approached the cities of Davenport, Moline and Rock Island for funding, since that’s where a majority of their residents come from. Moline has agreed to $20,000; they’re asking Rock Island for the same, and Davenport they’re asking for $60,000. Humility has asked Rock Island and Scott counties for a lower amount.

“Our funding community has done a fantastic job of moving the needle on housing and long-term solutions,” she said. The QC Community Foundation gave Humility a 2021 grant of $150,000 to create 10 units of supportive housing.

The QC Housing Council got a $300,000, three-year commitment from the foundation, and the Regional Development Authority supports the two groups as well.

Davenport has supported, but has not yet specified a funding amount, and Humility has not heard from Rock Island. The Rock Island City Council earlier this month voted to use $250,000 in federal ARPA funds (earmarked for homelessness services) for Project NOW to renovate a downtown building for its administrative offices.

Velez spoke at the affordable housing town hall meeting at Zion in Davenport, Oct. 24, 2023.

Other funders are talking to their boards, Velez said. Humility has had to fundraise every year and this is the largest amount sought.

The year-round shelter will remain open past year five of the plan, she noted.

Humility services include working with Iowa Workforce Development and local employers to help people find jobs; with health care providers to find access to care and health insurance, and get them stable.   

An assessment is done for each new client to find out their needs and goals, Velez said.

As opposed to some misconceptions, most people who use the Humility shelter didn’t move to the QC from big cities like Chicago. About 70 percent come from the Iowa QC, and the rest from Illinois, and others from outlying areas outside the immediate QC, Velez said. 

People who move from Chicago with housing issues usually have federal Section 8 vouchers, and it’s much more affordable locally, she said.

Humility needs at least $317,000 to continue expanding capacity in its Davenport homeless shelter starting Dec. 1.

Humility works with local housing authorities, but there are long wait lists for affordable units, Velez said. The Salvation Army also has a wait list of a month to get into their shelter, she said.

They plan to expand more alternatives, including Humility diversion workers that suggest those options — like offering a bus ticket to move in with family members, or help with utility bills.

Humility has a year-round partnership with the Downtown Davenport Partnership.

“The business community is seeing that having a thriving economy requires you to have affordable housing,” Velez said. The DDP supports the Humility street outreach program, which has staff working to see what needs are of the homeless population, and refer them to services.

“It takes building that relationship for people to trust you,” she said. “The goal is to get them into housing.”

Holiday appeal

Humility has many needs for hygiene items, towels and blankets, for its winter shelter. They’re seeking donations through the annual holiday appeal, through Dec. 8.

According to a Humility release:

  • Donations for Adults: We seek contributions of $20 Walmart gift cards, each destined for an adult participant in our housing and shelter programs. These gift cards provide vital support and empower our adult beneficiaries to choose the essentials they need most. You can contribute to this heartwarming cause without leaving your home by visiting our website at www.humilityhomes.org/holiday. Remember to select the gift card denomination as $20 or more.
  • Sponsor a Child: As a donor, you can make a child’s holiday season magical. Sign up to sponsor one or more children and expect to spend less than $50 per child. Once you sign up, you’ll receive a wish list for each child, ensuring your gift is personal and cherished. While wrapping supplies are welcome, please bring the gifts unwrapped, allowing us to keep track of each thoughtful present.

How to Get Involved

Humility says: Your support is invaluable to us, and we kindly request that you fill out a pledge form or call us at (563) 326-1330, extension 105, to let us know your expected donation amount. This will help us plan and ensure that we can meet the needs of our community members during this holiday season.

In addition to gift cards and children’s gifts, we are also open to special requests. If you would like to be on our call list for special needs this year, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Every effort is appreciated.

Please bring all gifts and gift cards no later than 4 p.m. on Dec. 8, 2023, to the Humility Homes & Services administrative office, 519 Fillmore St., Davenport.