Safe, decent and affordable housing for all


By Barb Arland-Fye

Sisters from religious communities in the Diocese of Davenport have marched in Washington, D.C., made persuasive arguments during contentious city hall meetings and volunteered countless hours seeking to ensure safe, decent and affordable housing for all. They are not alone in this mission but serve as role models in our call as faithful citizens to “support efforts to create and preserve affordable housing units as well as rental assistance for low-income families” (Iowa Catholic Conference).

Safe, decent and affordable housing for everyone in Iowa and nationwide remains an elusive goal since long before passage of the Fair Housing Act 56 years ago this month. The National Low Income Housing Coalition’s “Gap 2024: A Shortage of Affordable Homes” states that the lowest-income renters in the U.S. face a shortage of 7.3 million affordable and available homes. 

Iowa has 101,442 extremely low-income renter households. The number of affordable and available rental houses in Iowa is 42 for every 100 extremely low-income households, the coalition reports. The average nationwide is 34 for every 100 extremely low-income households. Closing that gap is the goal of the coalition, the agencies that the sisters in our diocese have nurtured or collaborated with, and other nonprofits with diocesan connections. Let us join them in prayer, education, advocacy, volunteerism and financial support.


Let us begin by acknowledging and supporting the efforts of the Congregation of the Humility of Mary (CHM), based in Davenport, which discerned a need for affordable housing nearly 40 years ago. After consultation with others to assess pressing needs, the sisters embarked on a journey that included the National March for Affordable Housing in Washington, D.C., in October 1989. Inspired, the CHM community founded Humility of Mary Housing, Inc., a nonprofit, to serve single families.

The CHMs nurtured their commitment through the years, drawing the next generation into the mission. Now called Humility Homes & Services, Inc., the nonprofit operates an emergency shelter in Davenport and 152 units that provide individuals and families the opportunity to transition from homelessness to stability in housing. Support HHSI as a volunteer, through advocacy and/or donations (

The Sisters of St. Francis of Clinton began gathering a group of agencies about nine years ago to address the needs of Clinton residents who are unhoused. Last fall, when a $5.5 million permanent supportive housing project in downtown Clinton was in jeopardy, the Clinton Franciscans intensified their advocacy efforts to prevent the project’s demise. Their efforts, coupled with that of other supporters and attorneys, saved the project.

The future tenants of this affordable housing project may be “just a paycheck and an emergency away from becoming unhoused,” Sister Jan Cebula, president of the Sisters of St. Francis, told the Clinton City Council during a packed meeting last November. The council’s affirmative vote saved the project from losing its funding. Support the Clinton Franciscans’ commitment to affordable housing through their endowment ( or by reaching out to the Clinton YWCA and its Empowerment Center (

Two other nonprofits with diocesan connections advocating and working for safe, decent and affordable housing also set and example and deserve our support: Escucha Mi Voz Iowa ( and Quad Cities Interfaith (

Escucha Mi Voz, based in Iowa City, advocated on behalf of a zoning change to increase the housing supply and encourage affordability in Iowa City. Members of Escucha Mi Voz, a faith-based advocacy group, work in restaurants, factories, hotels, construction and other occupations. Many live miles away because of lack of affordable housing options near their workplaces. Their advocacy helped overcome opposition to the zoning, which relaxes requirements in lower-density residential neighborhoods, allowing duplexes and attached single-family dwellings to face the same street in a way that does not dominate the streetscape ( Send an email to Escucha Mi Voz at to find out ways that you can assist their advocacy efforts.

Quad Cities Interfaith (QCI) began building the Quad Cities Tenant Alliance to address the lack of affordable rental housing and advocate for tenant rights, says Mayra Hernandez, QCI’s acting director. “We believed that if tenants got organized and came together, we could build the people power necessary to ensure tenants had decent and safe housing.”

QCI’s efforts to seek a citywide ordinance to establish tenant protections intensified after the partial collapse of the Davenport apartment building on May 28, which resulted in three deaths, injuries and displacement of tenants. Visit QCI’s website ( to invest in that organization’s efforts on behalf of affordable housing.

“We’re trying to meet the needs of our people,” says Sister Mary Ann Vogel, who has been a part of HHSI from its start as Humility of Mary Housing. “There are so many needs and we cannot do it alone.”

Barb Arland-Fye, Editor

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