No Place to Call Home: Endure

One man’s journey out of homelessness
More than 2,600 people are homeless in Iowa, 0.46% of the population. It’s 1.8% in Illinois, where more than 10,000 are homeless.
Updated: Apr. 6, 2023 at 10:00 PM CDT
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DAVENPORT, Iowa (KWQC) - Ricky Peed is celebrating his 60th birthday this month. It’s a milestone he didn’t expect to see.

Ricky was homeless in the Quad-Cities for a decade. He spent many nights behind a berm littered with trash and hidden from surrounding neighborhoods.

On a cold day last month, Ricky returned to the place he used to hide. “I’d sleep right here, under this tree,” he said.

His fall was a slow slide into homelessness. Once a nursing assistant with a good career, Ricky’s relationship failed and he turned to alcohol. He lost his job, then his apartment. And before long, he’d run out of money to pay his hotel bills.

“If it was nice out, I didn’t have a tent, I had a big tarp I’d lay out. And if it rained I could flip it over on top of me to stay dry,” Ricky said.

More than 2,600 people are homeless in Iowa, 0.46% of the population. It’s 1.8% in Illinois, where more than 10,000 are homeless.

Ultimately, KWQC TV6 Investigates found in this series that poor wages, high housing costs, discriminatory housing policies and a shortage of places for people live to all contribute to stories like Ricky’s.

“If those folks can’t find units, they end up with significant housing instability and risk of homelessness,” said Leslie Kilgannon, who oversees the Quad-Cities Housing Cluster, a group dedicated to solving the local housing crisis. “Through the pandemic, now we’re seeing more people who’ve never experienced homelessness before reach out for eviction prevention, assistance finding another unit, or experiencing homelessness.”

Ashley Velez is the director of Humility Homes and Services, a nonprofit that helps people like Ricky. She says elected leaders aren’t making housing a top priority.

“There’s not been enough movement from all the cities,” she said. “And there’s not been enough movement fast enough, in my opinion, because the crisis is going this way, and the work is going that way.”

If the Quad-Cities wants to grow, it needs more affordable housing to curb rising homelessness. Without it, local housing advocates say, workers will have no place to live, schools will decline and neighborhoods will degrade.

Back outside near his old sleeping spot, Ricky puts on his gloves and turns his back to the wind.

Even at his lowest point, he still held out hope.

“I didn’t totally give up on everything,” he said. “I believed deep down inside I was still a decent good person. Just because you become homeless doesn’t mean you’re a bad person.”

Ricky now sorts clothes for the Fresh Start Center at Humility Homes and Services. The nonprofit helped Ricky find temporary housing and a job in its donation center.

It’s only a few yards from the tree where he once slept.

“I spent years sleeping by this tree,” he said. “It’s ironic that I’d end up back here working for them. My past and my future connect.”