Ten years after Humility of Mary Housing Inc. took over a Davenport homeless agency before it closed its doors, the organization is now combining its two separate operations into one.
As of July 1, Humility of Mary Housing Inc. and its sister organization Humility of Mary Shelter Inc. have merged into Humility Homes & Services Inc. The combined organization retains all its transitional and supportive housing services, homelessness prevention programs, and an emergency shelter in Davenport.
The new name was approved by the combined governing board Thursday.
Emily Harvey, who was promoted from executive director of both organizations to CEO, said the staff is excited about the merger although they already shared administration and some back offices. "But we had two boards, two budgets, two staffs, two insurance coverage plans and two non-profit statuses."
In an interview Friday, the organization's leadership said the merger will streamline operations, save costs and potentially make it eligible for more grant funding, in part, from sharing a single pool of donors.
"The merger allows us to create an infrastructure where we are more efficient and can address continuum of care," said John DeTaeye, development director. "We are stronger together addressing homelessness as one issue."
Christie Adamson, who was the shelter's director of services, now is the chief operating officer of the merged group. "We're still very much the same as we were before July 1 when we merged. The staff believes in the new vision, and there are new goals for the next three years."
A committee considered the merger for three years. It hired Jean Butzen of Mission Plus Strategy to consult, she had led a Chicago housing group through its merger with a larger organization.
Sister Mary Ann Vogel, the board vice chair and a member of the Congregation of the Humility of Mary, or CHM, recalled the short time-frame that Humility of Mary Housing, the congregation's non-profit, had in order to keep the doors of the shelter open. Humility of Mary Shelter was created in 2008 as a new entity to run the former John Lewis Community Services Inc., which gave a three-week notice that it was closing.
"We didn't have time to work at putting the two together," she said. The effort involved getting a $300,000 commitment from the community to enable the new entity to take over operations and retain $1 million in U.S. Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, funding that was at risk.
John Lewis closed down after the agency ran out of money in 2008.
"It was extraordinary the housing board agreed to take on a whole complete businesses...," said board chair Sister Johanna Rickl, CHM. "We didn't have any money. But we knew we cannot try (with) all the lives at stake. We just had to have trust in God."
Harvey said the new organization also has three major goals to expand programming including: increasing its permanent support housing offerings by 15 units to serve single adults with disabilities; create a 15-bed shelter to serve families, which she said is a tremendous service gap; and create a self-governing participant advisory board.
As a result of the merger, those served "will definitely see an improved intake system, which for people experiencing homelessness and chaos in their life is traumatic," Adamson said.
She said the shelter will continue its "radical acceptance" philosophy, or low-barrier approach, in which, it promises to serve all people experiencing housing instability and homelessness. "No matter whatever choices you've made in life, we believe you are worthy and deserve to be housed," Adamson said. In many other cases, she said rules and regulations keep people out of shelters.
Rickl said the combined organization "also gives us an opportunity to be better able to connect it with other agencies."
Humility of Mary Housing Inc. has spearheaded a bi-state effort with seven other agencies to create a Coordinated Entry System, which would provide one central hub for clients to enter any of the programs.
The hub would have a more formalized approach to diverting people from the system, which is sometimes as simple as providing them with money for groceries or a bus ticket, Adamson said. "Even for one day (makes a difference) keeping them out of the system."
"It would have been much easier for Illinois to do it and Iowa to do their own, but it's not as effective for our partnership,'' she said. "As we all know, people don't see that river when they need help."
DeTaeye said the Humility Homes & Services name not only is in reverence to the congregation but also describes "how we do our work." "Humility means extending dignity to all people...," he said.
The organization's new tagline is "Serving All. Benefiting All - Humility Homes and Services Inc."