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Page last updated on May 4, 2023 at 10:04 am

Hello. I’m John Hamilton, Mayor of Bloomington, and I am very happy to be here celebrating the collaborative power of partnerships in strengthening housing security in Bloomington. 

I want to thank Mary Morgan and Tatiana Wheeler, Tina Petersen, and Efrat Feferman, and Beverly Calendar-Anderson as well as the City Council, Monroe County Government, and the many fine folks from United Way of Monroe County, the Community Foundation of Bloomington and Monroe County, the South Central Housing Network, the Heading Home Advisory Group, and the City of Bloomington employees working to address housing insecurity in Bloomington. There are other groups and organizations that should be thanked as well because this work requires the whole community and so on behalf of the City, I offer my gratitude community-wide. 

As we gather at this place that holds memories of Bloomington’s past, I want to acknowledge a fuller past and recognize and honor the Miami, Delaware, Potawatomi, and Shawnee people, on whose ancestral homelands and resources Bloomington is built, as well as people of color whose lives and labor were extracted by force.

Housing insecurity ripples throughout a community. Community impacts are felt in physical and mental health facilities, hospitals and doctor offices, rental properties, businesses, nonprofits and social service agencies, and in churches and synagogues and mosques, and public spaces and in schools and daycares, and front porches and jails and prisons, and park benches and grocery stores and bus stations. Our whole community suffers when housing insecurity persists.

And of course, housing insecurity most directly ripples and affects families and individuals one at a time. Keeping a family safe and healthy, meeting life’s everyday, common challenges can be overwhelming for any of us, if and when we face housing insecurity. Keeping a job. Getting an education. Maintaining mental and physical health. Raising our kids. Affording groceries and medications, and entertainment, and quality of life. 

We as a community need to rally around some of our simultaneously most vulnerable and most promising members just as we need to rally around every community member. 

We in the city have supported and preserved more than 1,100 new units of affordable housing in the past six years. That’s an unprecedented rate for our community and has helped hundreds of families and individuals, including many who were formerly homeless or experiencing substance use disorder, or disability, or severe housing pressures. I thank the city council and so many partners in making that difference. And in passing the local option income tax earlier this year which is providing $1 million per year in new funding for housing investments. And thanks to the Biden/Harris administration and Congress for their herculean efforts with ARPA and more. But all that is still not enough. We know. 

And the pandemic surely taught as this lesson as well. That disaster, with no roadmap, made us navigate public health, our economy, and our way forward. We came together beautifully as a community and responded to dire community needs, including at the height of COVID, basic needs for food, shelter, health and safety, child care, and more. The pandemic exposed many ongoing vulnerabilities for our residents - including housing - and increased stress within the area’s housing market.

I vividly recall calling Tina and Efrat, separately, in December 2020, to talk about many of these housing challenges, and asking whether they would agree together to lead a new effort, to create a group of funders and providers and individuals, dealing with housing insecurity, to build some common goals and approaches, focused on solutions, to advance housing security, to prevent homelessness in the first place and ensure that if it does occur, it is brief, non-repeating, and rare. And so was born The Housing Insecurity Working Group. 

Thank you Efrat and Tina for grabbing hold of this challenge and leading a powerful collection of allies for nearly two years now, bringing us to today. Building on their work during the pandemic and an earlier plan, and with wide community involvement and support, the working group launched the Heading Home 2021 plan, addressing many contributing factors to housing insecurity, ranging from financial and legal issues to emotional, physical, and mental health-related matters.

The plan embraces the concept of Housing First, removing barriers and quickly and successfully connecting families and individuals to permanent housing. The Heading Home coalition, focused on Monroe and five surrounding counties, became the first Indiana community to join the Built for Zero movement to decrease homelessness. This national network of more than 100 communities works to end homelessness, measurably and equitably, period. 

The City is committed to and has invested in this important work. In addition to $1.2 million initially committed through the city's "Recover Forward" program, the City dedicated an additional $1.5 million to fight housing insecurity in 2022. I know you’ll hear shortly from the county, which also stepped up with significant financial support.

This Heading Home initiative is an example of what is best about Bloomington. It is people of goodwill and mission coming together to improve our community. It is wholly consistent with Bloomington's character, as a place aspiring to be a welcoming and safe community where everyone can thrive and belong. Housing brings safety. Having a place to call home, within a city that is home, lets our residents participate fully in life, in community building… In creating a shared future of climate resilience, high quality of life, and optimism. Congratulations and onward we go, Building for Zero, and Heading Home, for all.