Sen. Harkin examines housing and homelessness in Davenport

U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, talks with Cathy Jordan, lead for the VALOR Program, at Humility of Mary Shelter Inc., Davenport, while Richard, a participant in the veterans transitional housing program, listens. Sen. Harkin toured the shelter Jan. 31.

By Barb Arland-Fye
DAVENPORT — During a tour of Humility of Mary Shelter Inc., U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, thanked the staff and Sisters of Humility, who took over a shelter forced to close in 2008.
The senator, serving his fifth and final term in the Senate, toured the 82-bed shelter Jan. 31 to learn about the services and support it provides, and to gain further insight on affordable housing efforts. Following the shelter visit, Sen. Harkin met with the Scott County Housing Council and representatives of the Quad Cities Housing Cluster.
“I have long supported programs that assist low to moderate-income people in Davenport and across the state. I hope that my visit last week helps to draw attention to the needs of the Iowans experiencing homelessness — particularly during these cold winter months,” Sen. Harkin told The Catholic Messenger. “They are doing great work at this shelter and I was encouraged to see it firsthand.”
Inside the shelter, he viewed dorm rooms, a storage area and offices, chatted with two military veterans and “fist-bumped” a man in the day room.
Several staff members, Sisters of Humility and reporters accompanied the senator who asked about the number of people experiencing homelessness in the area. “I really want to find out how many homeless people we have here.” He was told that an annual survey had been conducted that week, but results are still being collected. Advocates for people experiencing homelessness made a sweep of Davenport. “We find people everywhere,” said Christie Adamson, the shelter’s assistant program director.
Humility of Mary Shelter also provides transitional and permanent supportive housing programs that help men and women experiencing homelessness to work toward self-sufficiency.
Military veterans Randy and Richard, for example, are getting help through the shelter’s transitional housing program for veterans. The senator spoke with both men and thanked them for their service.
Later, turning toward staff members and Sisters of Humility, Sen. Harkin said, “I think some of the most unsung heroes in our society are you. You care for people who are down and out … I just want to thank all of you. It does my heart good to see this. We can afford to do this … it’s a mark of a compassionate society to be able to do this.”
“If you can find a little extra money that would be OK,” quipped Sister Greta Fitzgerald, vice president of the Congregation of the Humility of Mary. Her community came to the aid of the homeless population first by founding Humility of Mary Housing Inc., a transitional housing program, and later taking a lead role in rescuing the former John Lewis Homeless Shelter.
“I did,” Sen. Harkin said, referring to funding for the Scott County Housing Council that came in five, separate congressionally allocated pieces starting in 2003. Totaling $1.4 million, the funding has supported projects at the shelter and other housing agencies in Scott County. But Congress has since eliminated “earmarks” for such funding in the federal budget.
“Most of those earmarks went for good, probably 90-95 percent of them, and provide great services for people. When earmarks were no longer, a lot of people were hurt,” said Rick Schloemer, director of the Scott County Housing Council which serves as conduit for loans and grants to a continuum of care — from shelters and transitional housing programs to housing rehabilitation and new home construction.
The housing council is an outgrowth of the Quad Cities Housing Cluster, some of whose members shared stories Jan. 31 with Sen. Harkin of the work that has been accomplished through collaboration and efficient use of funds.
Todd Theis of Interfaith Housing in Davenport spoke of rehabilitation projects in the central city that have put houses back on the tax rolls and provided families of modest incomes with affordable housing.
The senator told The Messenger he was “grateful for the opportunity to meet with local housing officials and to learn more about the needs of residents and housing assistance programs. I will continue to do everything in my legislative power to ensure that all Iowans have access to quality, affordable housing.”

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