In late September, a few dozen of us gathered on the courthouse square to honor 38 people in Monroe County who died last year. They were either homeless when they died or had been homeless at some point in their lives.
The ceremony, organized by Beacon, was poignant. We lit candles in their memory. Friends placed signs on the courthouse lawn, each with the name of a person who had passed away. There was also a sign placed for “Those Named and Unnamed.” We prayed, we hugged, we mourned.
Earlier that day I’d spoken to a class of Indiana University students, talking about the complexities and challenges of people who are housing insecure, and of our region’s response to this crisis. It’s a difficult, overwhelming topic everyone has an opinion, but we often don’t agree on solutions. Even on a good day, hope can be hard to find.
Toward the end of the class, one student asked whether I thought we’d ever see the day when everyone has a safe place to live. I told him I have to believe the answer is yes.
I believe that now more than ever because I’ve seen the commitment, hard work and resources devoted to strengthening housing security in our region. The goal is to prevent people from falling into homelessness in the first place, by working on eviction prevention, creating more safe, affordable housing, and shoring up vital infrastructure like transportation, child care, and access to health services, among other things.
It’s a regional issue because these same housing security concerns are present in other counties, too. And many areas outside of Monroe County don’t have the services we do. So when a crisis occurs and someone falls into homelessness, they often can’t find the help they need in the community where they live.
At Heading Home of South Central Indiana, a community-wide collaborative that launched in late 2021, we’re partnering with organizations here and in surrounding counties to identify needs – there are many – and work toward finding solutions so that people can keep their homes and don’t have to leave their friends, family and places they know in order to get help.Your stories live here.Fuel your hometown passion and plug into the stories that define it.
It’s one of many projects we’re tackling in collaboration with local and regional partners, leveraging resources that go further when we all work together – government, businesses, nonprofits, faith-based organizations and more. You can learn more about our work at HeadingHomeIndiana.org.
We’re also learning from other parts of the country. Our region is the first in Indiana to join Built for Zero, a nationwide initiative working with more than 100 communities who are committed to ending homelessness. You’ll hear more about this in the coming months, and we’re excited to have guidance and resources from Built for Zero to develop a more data-driven approach to tackle this challenging social issue.
The purpose for all of this comes back to our neighbors who are struggling, and our resolve to find sustainable, systemic changes to make homelessness rare, brief and non-repeating.
I believe it’s possible to reach that goal – a day when we won’t be gathering to mourn people who died without a home.
Mary Morgan is Director of Housing Security for Heading Home of South Central Indiana, a partnership of United Way of Monroe County, the Community Foundation of Bloomington & Monroe County, the City of Bloomington, Monroe County and others. Reach her at email@example.com.