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Our Mission

Willis Dady empowers all experiencing homelessness to build futures of self-sufficiency through advocacy, housing, and employment.

Mission & Vision

Our Vision

A community where everyone has housing, stability, and opportunity.

We understand the impact our services have on our broader community and we strive to maximize the participation of partners, businesses, volunteers, donors, and neighbors in our efforts. We know that with compassion and engagement we can have a greater impact on those we serve and in turn create a better space for all.

Our Values

Willis Dady Homeless Services has 7 core values that our organization follows to enhance the impact of our mission and vision.

Support, Stability, Opportunity:

We consistently provide the opportunity, motivation, and needed supports to address barriers and encourage all to work towards stability.


We understand that the first step to empowerment is through compassion and empathy. We believe in promoting autonomy to build confidence for everyone to take charge of their future.

Equity & Inclusion:

We believe that equity and inclusion are the cornerstone of creating an accepting community. All people are worthy of dignity and respect no matter their background or experiences. We aim to be an example for the community to provide fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement while striving to eliminate barriers.

Meet People Where They're At: 

We build relationships by meeting people where they are physically, mentally, and emotionally. Working as a team through various programs, we strive to provide individualized case management to support clients in working towards self-sufficiency and self-reliance.

Energy, Enthusiasm and the Courage to Lead:

We show up every day committed to encourage clients, staff, and our community partners to affect change through self-advocacy, education, persistence, and cooperation. We strive to lead our community towards a brighter future with forward thinking and innovative ideas when faced with new challenges.

Acting with Integrity:

We are open and honest about the decisions we make as an organization. In the face of adversity, we act with patience and reliability. We trust each other to be responsible for our actions, words, and performance to ensure equity in our services.


Our Values
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1247 4th Ave SE 1991

Hover over the image to see the transformation of how the building looked from 1991-2018!
In the winter of 1991, Willis Dady moved to our current location at 1247 4th Ave SE. This former housing complex was transformed into a shelter with space for 16 single men and several families. Since move in day in the winter of 1991, Willis Dady Homeless Services has provided overnight, emergency shelter at this location.
As Willis Dady began to serve more clients, our organization began to understand the barriers our client's faced to gaining and maintaining stable housing. We saw new ways Willis Dady could improve, or add too, our services to provide clients stability.

Follow the timeline below to see our services expand and evolve:


Our History

Willis Dady Homeless Services was founded in 1987

Jim Welborn, a Veteran who experienced homelessness for much of his adult life, founded Willis Dady in 1987.

Welborn started the Willis Dady day center as his senior project to complete his Social Work degree at Mount Mercy College. The center was founded at 514 McKinley St. SE in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (Pictured to the right). 

Welborn named his project "Willis Dady" to honor the life of a man who experienced homelessness named Willis Dady from Des, Moines, Iowa. Dady jumped into the Des Moines River and lost his life while trying to save a drowning child in May of 1984.
Jim wanted to provide a place where men with experiences similar to his own would be "respected but held accountable for changing their lives". 

1989 - Willis Dady incorporated as a 501(c)3 nonprofit,
Willis Dady Emergency Shelter Inc. 

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A Letter to the Editor submitted to the Gazette, in the summer of 1987.
After Jim graduated from Mount Mercy, the Willis Dady project continued. The drop-in style day shelter was seeing a lot of utilization from single men and our community was beginning to notice. Welborn shared to the Gazette in January 1988 about the impact of the 17 beds they had at the house:

"Since opening on Dec. 2nd 1987, the beds at the shelter have been occupied over 400 times." 

A dedicated group of volunteers came alongside Welborn and began transitioning the drop-in day center to an overnight shelter. 

This team fundraised, recruited more volunteers, and achieved their goal in 1990. The Willis Dady House began providing shelter to single men and families just one year after incorporation. 
Our History

1991 - 1247 4th Ave SE, Willis Dady's New Emergency Shelter

2007: Case Management added to Emergency Shetler

This expansion of our Emergency Shelter program to include case management forever changed program design at Willis Dady. We saw how impactful case management is on clients as they are working towards stable housing, and included it in the base of every program moving forward. 
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2013: Homeless Prevention Program 

Willis Dady's Homeless Prevention program was started in 2013, aiming to serve individuals and households throughout Linn county at risk of evictions and homelessness. Willis Dady was the first organization to create a Homeless Prevention program in our community, aiming to prevent evictions for households at risk of homelessness through landlord negotiation and limited rental assistance. To learn more about our Homeless Prevention program, check out it's program page here

2018: Street Outreach Program 

Willis Dady's Street Outreach program was started in 2018, serving individuals and households experiencing literal homelessness in our community. To learn more about our Street Outreach program, check out it's program page here

2018: Rapid Rehousing Program

Willis Dady's Rapid Rehousing program was started in 2018 to help those experiencing homelessness immediately move into their own stable housing with rental assistance and individualized case management. To learn more about our Rapid Rehousing program, check out it's program page here

2018: Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) 

Willis Dady's Permanent Supportive Housing program was started in 2018 with the opening of our 5 unit PSH house for men experiencing persistent homelessness, Welborn House. This program provides stable housing for up to 2 years for individuals transitioning from persistent homelessness to permanent housing. To learn more about our PSH program, check out it's program page here

2018: Employment Program

Willis Dady's Employment program was started in 2018 to provide employment and training to individuals experiencing homelessness in our community. Similar to our Homeless Prevention program, this our Employment fills a large need for individualized employment assistance and flexible employers for individuals experiencing homelessness. To learn more about our Employment program, check out it's program page here

2018: GPD Shelter and TIP programs

As Willis Dady's Capital Campaign added a new Veteran's wing, in October 2018 we officially began our dedicated Veteran Services programming through the VA. 10 beds at our Emergency Shelter are reserved for Veterans experiencing homelessness in our community. These beds are individualized, and service-intensive, allowing Veterans to address their barriers to stability and gain stable housing. Our Transition-In-Place (TIP) program helps Veterans experiencing homelessness build stability in their own apartments throughout our city. To learn more about our GPD programs, check our their program page here

2017-2019 Willis Dady's Shelter Expansion Capital Campaign!

in 2017-2019 Willis Dady completed a $3.1 million Capital Campaign to renovate and expand Willis Dady's Emergency Shelter. This campaign was generously supported by many local businesses, corporations, and individuals within our community--Thank you!
This expansion increased our Emergency Shelter's capacity! Since 2019 we have been able to serve 25 single men (from 15), 10 Veterans (from 0 reserved beds), and 6 families (from 2) at our 1247 4th Ave location. 

We compiled a video of the construction progress in the video to the left. 
Our team also shared updates on the progress of the campaign on our blog. Check out the posts here!

2020-2023 Willis Dady Works Capital Campaign!

In 2020 Willis Dady Homeless Services began our silent Capital Campaign to purchase the Chandler Pump building, located on B. Ave NW. This historic building was to offer expansion of two Willis Dady programs--Employment and Permanent Supportive Housing. The first floor would be transformed into our Employment Hub with the second story containing 13 units of supportive housing. To learn more about the details of this expansion, check out our Willis Dady Works page here
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Chandler Pump Building Pre-Derecho


Chandler Pump Building


2020 Derecho Impact

On August 10th, 2020 a devastating hurricane force wind and rain storm tore through Eastern Iowa. Just as Willis Dady had completed our silent campaign, the second story of the Chandler Pump building was destroyed. 

Our Leadership team and Board of Directors immediately got to work identifying how the project could continue without the second floor. On the same lot as the Chandler Pump building facing 1st Ave was a large office and industrial space owned by the McLanahan Corporation. Due to the pandemic, McLanahan had moved their workforce home, and was no longer in need of the building. 

The purchase of this building allowed us to continue with the project as planned, having the 2nd level of Permanent Supportive Housing apartments be the only level of the Chandler Pump building and moving the Employment hub operations to the McLanahan building, 800 1st Ave NW. 

2022 Willis Dady Works opens at 800 1st Ave NW

Willis Dady hosted a grand opening event in the fall of 2021, and opened our doors to clients shortly after. The Employment Hub began offering on-site job training, Mattress Recycling employment opportunities, case management, and appointment based showers and laundry in 2022. Today, the Willis Dady Works expansion has helped over a hundred clients have access to critical hygiene supplies since opening, and had drop-in shower and laundry times 3x a week to serve as many people as possible. 

Willis Dady's
Annual Reports

Annul Reports
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