Housing Summit seeks solutions

By Kayleen Ruthberg

Guest speaker Dr. Sam Tsemberis leads a workshop.

The Territorial Housing Summit “Innovative Homeless and Housing Solutions” held this spring in Madison, Wis., brought together housing experts to address the issue. Five plenary sessions and 20 workshops provided opportunities for learning and consideration of developing innovative mission centric housing services that are sustainable, impactful and responsive to community needs.

Dr. Maribeth Swanson, territorial social services secretary, opened the summit by sharing sobering data:
• The rate of homelessness increased by 12 percent in 2023.
• The lack of affordable housing is contributing to the rise of unhoused adults and children; seniors, disabled and working adults have been severely impacted.

Referencing Founder William Booth’s book In Darkest England and the Way Out, she shared The Salvation Army was at the forefront of providing shelter for the homeless, then asked, “Are we ‘Doing the Most Good’ now with our resources, organizational capacity, and grounded in our holistic mission? What will it take for the Army to continue to lead the way out?”

Richard Townsell, Lawndale Christian Development Corporation executive director

Richard Townsell, Lawndale Christian Development Corporation (LCDC) executive director, passionately shared the organization’s goal to build 1,000 affordable homes. Through sound business practices and community action combined with prayer, LCDC demonstrates its mission, “Loving God. Loving our Neighborhood.” by reclaiming vacant lots and abandoned buildings in the Chicago Lawndale community. Mr. Townsell emphasized that “affordable housing doesn’t have to look cheap,” while sharing examples of beautifully rehabbed apartments and newly built homes now occupied by happy families.

Dr. Sam Tsemberis, founder of the Pathways Housing First Institute and the Housing First Model, shared the revolutionary housing initiative. The model’s premise is that housing is a basic human right; so, a person should not have to meet certain criteria before being housed.

A panel of experts shared the complexities of developing permanent supportive housing.

Delegates work on a mural art project for the Madison
Women’s Shelter.

Lt. Colonel Robert Webster, territorial secretary for program, encouraged delegates to stay true to the Army’s mission and foundation in Jesus Christ, our true home. Envoy Theo Coleman, summit chaplain, gave morning devotions and shared his powerful testimony of transformation both in word and song.

Break times and evenings provided opportunities for conversation and connection. Delegates also worked together on a mural project for the Madison Women’s Shelter.

Four locations were recognized for demonstrating excellence and innovation in their housing or shelter programs: Wings (Wisconsin/Upper Michigan Division), Shield of Hope (North & Central Illinois Division), Ruth Lilly Women and Children’s Center (Indiana Division), and Booth Center Emergency Shelter (Kansas/Western Missouri Division). Each received a $1,000 grant to be used to support staff development and program enhancement.

In the final address, Chief Secretary Colonel Steven Howard focused on Isaiah 58 and said housing people is very much aligned with our mission. In the words of William Booth, he closed by challenging us to, “Go and do something.”

Shield of Hope in the North & Central Illinois Division (NCI) is recognized for excellence and innovation. Pictured (l to r): Chief Secretary Colonel Steven Howard; Leon Denton, NCI divisional social services director; Alisa Rodriguez, Chicago Area Command director of social services; and Dr. Maribeth Swanson, territorial social services secretary.





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