Earlier this year, I spoke to a class of IU students 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, childcare 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. 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 in Monroe County and in surrounding counties to identify needs and work on solutions so people can keep their homes and don’t have to leave their friends, family and places they know in order to get help.
We’re also learning from other parts of the U.S. 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 with a collaborative, data-driven approach.
There are many ways that IU students, faculty and staff can help strengthen housing security. Here are just a few:
Host food and clothing drives or fundraisers at your residence hall, sorority, fraternity, club or department. Be sure to check with agencies who serve low-income residents to align your efforts with their needs.
Find ways to use your skills to address housing insecurity in our community. Are you studying or teaching data analysis, public policy or media relations? Social service agencies might need these skills for their work.
Volunteer for whatever jobs our social service agencies need. Most service providers post volunteer opportunities on their websites. Volunteer as an individual or organize a group to volunteer.
Form a team for the IU Kelley Institute for Social Impact’s Impact Competition 2023. The 2023 competition is partnering with Heading Home, and participants will be asked to develop innovative solutions to support our work. Teams of four are limited to one senior and open to all IUB undergraduate students. It includes over $10,000 in prizes for teams and an additional $10,000 for the winning team to implement their idea with Heading Home. Applications are open from Jan. 9 to Jan. 22. Learn more at Gokelley.iu.edu/impactcomp.
Advocate with IU administration to address housing needs. Limited on-campus housing pushes students off campus, where housing costs are high and supply is limited. This impacts students, staff and even faculty who can’t find housing to fit their budget. And, of course, it affects other residents who have fewer resources and can’t afford the high cost of housing in this competitive market. What is the IU administration’s plan to address this crisis?
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 everyone has a safe, affordable place to call home.
Mary Morgan (she/her) is the 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more at HeadingHomeIndiana.org.