A new vision for affordable supportive housing

“Dream big, start small. But most of all, start.”

– Simon Sinek
Emily Osweiler, Carol Luth, and Sarah Wigen

In the Fall of 2021, Emily Osweiler, Carol Luth, and Sarah Wigen gathered together to map out a new vision for affordable supportive housing. We were ignited by the belief that we can and should do more to provide not only shelter, but also offer the support required to stabilize, encourage, and elevate the most vulnerable in our community.

While Greater Des Moines Supportive Housing is a new organization, the founding team has many decades of experience in homeless services, housing programs, and nonprofit management. We are eager and passionate; we believe in grace. There are no throwaway people.

In Polk County, there are at least 580 homeless individuals living on the streets or at an emergency shelter. The number may even be higher as we are just beginning to witness the impacts of COVID-19. Providers are reporting they are seeing triple the number of people who are seeking housing. And nearly 20% of Iowans fear they may be evicted or face foreclosure. We also know that 40% of hardworking Iowans are rent-burdened, meaning they are spending more than 30% of their income leaving little extra for essentials such as food and medicine even as inflation grows taking a bigger bite out of a minimum wage paycheck. In Central Iowa alone, there is a shortage of nearly 12,000 affordable rental units. More and more low-income renters are losing their housing as properties are being renovated into higher-end apartments.

A diversity of approaches matters for a diversity of people.

Imagine a new model of housing. A model that believes housing can heal. A model that will take what we already know works and expand it to better serve the needs of our community. A model that will address chronic homelessness and affordable housing needs in one facility. A model that is highly cost-effective and humane and will divert individuals from unnecessary and costly institutional placements—jail, prison, mental health facilities, and nursing homes. A model that will enable some of our most vulnerable to age-in-place and stay in the only place they have known as home. And a model that will recognize the continuum of individuals facing homelessness from low-income wage earners to mental illness to addictions to disabilities and brain injuries.

Through our permanent supportive housing program, we will work to ensure housing justice by providing stable, high-quality, safe, and affordable community housing. At the same time, we will walk side-by-side with those most in need with grace and without judgment as they journey to overcome housing instability.


In 2022/2023, we will construct a permanent supportive housing campus in the Des Moines metro area for adult individuals experiencing homelessness and other housing barriers. The campus will be designed to support trauma-informed care, aging-in-place, and meet the needs of individuals with physical and mental disabilities, including special considerations for individuals coping with brain injury. 

Our program will go far beyond what is currently offered in the community. We will build a foundation where residents can access comprehensive, holistic services in an integrated, seamless manner. The resident will always be at the center of their individualized housing stability plan. A core team of professionals will work with them to develop an effective plan meeting personal treatment, health, and wellness needs while building self-sufficiency skills and housing stability. 

We see a tremendous need in our community. Together we can address this need, lift those who are struggling and create a community where individuals grow and thrive. Join us in offering belonging, wellness, and home.

The quote below speaks to our hearts. If imagining home and widening the circle of compassion speaks to yours, please like and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn, sign up for newsletter below, or donate.

“Only kinship. Inching ourselves closer to creating a community of kinship such that God might recognize it. Soon we imagine, with God, this circle of compassion. Then we imagine no one standing outside of that circle, moving ourselves closer to the margins so that the margins themselves will be erased. We stand there with those whose dignity has been denied. We locate ourselves with the poor and the powerless and the voiceless. At the edges, we join the easily despised and the readily left out. We stand with the demonized so that the demonizing will stop. We situate ourselves right next to the disposable so that the day will come when we stop throwing people away.”

– Gregory Boyle, Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion
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Sarah Wigen

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