As the executive director of Humility Homes & Services Inc. in Davenport and with 15 years of experience in social work, Ashley Velez understands the gravity of homelessness. Her encounters with adults and children struggling to obtain and maintain housing, survivors of domestic abuse and human trafficking and people returning to the community after incarceration, provide valuable insights. “Housing is core to everything in our life,” she told participants at HHSI’s “Community is Unity” fundraising event Oct.1 in Bettendorf. Without a place to call home, families and individuals “can’t focus on anything because they don’t know where they are going to go,” she said.
During October, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) asks us to commemorate Respect Life Month. Specifically, the bishops ask us to be “in radical solidarity with women who are pregnant or raising children in difficult circumstances ….” Among those difficult circumstances are the struggle to obtain and maintain a place to call home, nutritious food, adequate and safe childcare and healthcare.
The bishops, in this year’s Respect Life campaign, call for support of pregnant women and families in need. Parishes and individuals can find ideas and suggestions on the walkingwithmoms.com website.
Radical solidarity calls for a broad approach. Humility Homes & Services Inc. (HHSI) recognizes that individuals and families in need require “wrap-around” services and support to remain in their homes and build on their ability to flourish in the community. We, as members of a community in which families thrive, need to pray, learn and advocate for policies, programs and funding that support and affirm them.
The USCCB’s Labor Day Letter for 2023 provides excellent guidance (usccb.org/resources/labor-day-statement-2023).The letter states that Congress enacted important laws in 2022 that the bishops supported, including the PUMP Act and a permanent option for states to extend postpartum Medicaid coverage for one year after birth. Our state of Iowa has not taken advantage of this opportunity. Contact Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds at governor.iowa.gov and your state legislators (legis.iowa.gov/) to encourage them to support this coverage.
Other recommendations from the USCCB would help ensure that pregnant women and families in need have the essentials to flourish in their homes and the greater community. Ask Congress, which avoided a government shutdown last week with bipartisan support, to build on that momentum and do the following:
- Strengthen the Child Tax Credit, “a powerful pro-family and anti-poverty program” that at present “excludes too many children in need.” The bishops say that Congress can “better support families by structuring the credit to be fully refundable to have the biggest impact on the lowest-income families. It is also vital that the credit continue to serve all families with U.S. citizen children regardless of their parents’ immigration status.
- Support paid family leave. The bishops say the policy should not be an undue burden to lower-income organizations, penalize larger families or destabilize existing social service programs.
- Ensure better access to affordable, quality childcare and pre-kindergarten, which also provides just wages for childcare workers and teachers. Support families who choose to care for their children at home. Faith-based childcare and early education programs should be included as part of the solution. Childcare remains one of the biggest expenses in many families’ budgets. Workers in the childcare sector also need to earn a just wage so that they can meet their families’ needs.
- Support organizations in our individual communities, such as HHSI (humilityhomes.org) through financial and material donations and volunteerism.
Another great resource in our efforts to advocate for measures that respect life year round is the Iowa Catholic Conference (ICC), the public policy voice of Iowa’s bishops. The ICC advocates for the common good and promotes public policies that respect the life and dignity of every human person. Visit the ICC website at iowacatholicconference.org for updates on the issues that matter to people of faith, especially life-affirming measures for individuals and families.
Having a home is essential and it is a basic human right. Individuals and families in need also require tools to spread their wings beyond the home and contribute to the common good.
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor