Izaah Knox Has the Floor

The most dangerous thing you can tell people

Izaah Knox Has the Floor

Written reports are helpful, but there are times when hearing and seeing firsthand is what it takes to have confidence in the work being done to improve the lives of others. That’s why as a new PCHTF Board Member and member of the Operating & Supportive Services (OSS) committee I made sure to have a seat on the Fall Bus Tour visiting the programs that receive OSS funding from PCHTF. Little did I know that at every stop there would be stories, programs and living examples that echoed a mantra I’ve carried for years – “The most dangerous thing you can tell people is that they can do anything, without showing them how to do it.” The service providers we heard from are clearly committed to showing the how.

Through my work at Urban Dreams, the classrooms of higher education, and now as a volunteer community leader for affordable housing, I see the challenges of creating sustainable success – whether it be employment, housing or education – and the importance of well-coordinated community collaboration and commitment to best practices.  

The programs and organizations featured on the Bus Tour included The Home Connection at Hawthorn Hill, Blueprint to Homeownership at Greater Des Moines Habitat for Humanity, Advantage Services Center at CommonBond Communities, Transitions at Oakridge Neighborhood, Housing Navigator at Primary Health Care, Shelter Plus Care at Anawim Housing, and Permanent Supportive Housing at Central Iowa Shelter & Services.

They all receive community dollars from PCHTF for services to help individuals and families living in affordable housing.  In a nutshell, these programs focus on helping people retain their housing and moving toward self-sufficiency. 

What impressed me most was their collective focus on the future. Not what they were able to provide that day or that week, but what the life of that person or family would be like in a year, two years and three years – on their own.

In fact, in the year ended June 30, 2015 one of the metrics tracked by PCHTF for the return on investment of OSS dollars showed 974 of the individuals and families participating in PCHTF funded services were stably housed for over 1 year, and 374 households remained stably housed for 24 months or longer. Other results from this most recent budget year include -

·       1669 households (4,060 individuals) were involved in programing funded by the PCHTF.  74% of those households made less than 30% of area median income or about minimum wage.

·       385 households moved from homelessness to permanent housing.

·       181 households increased their income by 20% or more. 

·       69 formerly unemployed individuals were placed in jobs at an average wage of $10.19 per hour.

These are all people in Polk County – our neighbors, our children’s classmates, our co-workers, the people who stock shelves at our grocery stores and all kinds of other important jobs – each contributing to our quality of life and economic vitality. 

I’ve found our area’s challenges are not unique, but the way we manage them is – which is part of why my wife and I choose to live here and raise our 13-year old son and 3-year old daughter in a home we rehabbed in the River Bend Neighborhood of Des Moines. 

I was born in Cedar Rapids, raised in Seattle, Washington and we visited relatives in Iowa for special holidays and reunions. When it came time for college I was able to be a student athlete at Ellsworth Community College and then finished up a couple of degrees at Drake. Actually my wife would say I’m never “finished” given I am now working on my PhD from Iowa State University.  One thing I’ve come to learn is Des Moines and our surrounding communities know that with the right players, shared goals, and resources to support collaboration we can improve just about any situation we wish to affect.

In a couple of months the PCHTF will be conducting our annual Combined Campaign for Housing, the fundraising campaign that provides the OSS dollars used to fund the programs we saw in action during this last Bus Tour.  If you are a donor or service provider – thank you!  If you aren’t, please learn more and consider how you can be part of ensuring everyone has a safe and stable place to call home. You can trust we have wonderful stewards of resources who are committed to helping others know how to own, manage and sustain their better, future life in affordable housing.

Izaah Knox began serving on the PCHTF Board in 2015. Izaah works to develop new programing to attract, train, and retain employees at Wellmark, while also serving as the Associate Executive Director for Urban Dreams.