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What Action Is The City Taking To Improve Housing Options For People Experiencing Homelessness?

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>>BOB ZALTSBERG: This is Noon Edition on WFIU. I'm your host Bob Zaltsberg co-hosting with WFIU News Bureau Chief, Sara Wittmeyer. This week, we're talking about ways to create more affordable housing in Bloomington for people experiencing homelessness or instability or extremely low income, and we have four guests with us today. Forrest Gilmore is the executive director of Beacon Incorporated. Mayor John Hamilton from the city of Bloomington is joining us today. Andrew Bradley from Prosperity Indiana. He's the policy director. And Kyle Arbuckle, who is from the National Low-Income Housing Coalition advocacy group and he is an organizer with it, advocacy organizer. If you have questions or comments for us, you can follow us on Twitter @NoonEdition. You can also send us your questions for the show at So thank you all for being here with us today. This is an extremely difficult topic. We know that. We know it's complex. We know there are lots of issues that everybody on this panel today are wrestling with. And I really appreciate your being here. I want to start the program by talking with both Mayor John Hamilton and Forrest Gilmore about the issue that Sara mentioned in the billboard promoting our show about the ordinance that came before the city council just last month that would have addressed people being in - people who are experiencing homelessness, being in public spaces in the community. So Mayor Hamilton, can you give us your take on that and explain to us what happened with that legislation? 

>>JOHN HAMILTON: Sure, Bob, it's nice to be with you and Sara and Forrest and Kyle and Andrew, thanks for all being together. I appreciate that. You know, look, this has been an extraordinarily challenging past 12 or 13 months, of course, in so many ways with the pandemic. And it has certainly been a very difficult time for many of our residents in Bloomington who have lost income, lost housing, faced food insecurity, health insecurity and many other challenges. And we're still seeing that, of course. And we did - the particular item event you talked about was one part of, you know, really, a really tough year when so many people were going through difficult things. And one way that was manifest was people, some people started camping out in City Park, in particular, Seminary Park. That was the one that seemed to be - get the most activity and that was against - is against city ordinance and city law. And also, of course, during the winters, very dangerous being out in subzero, very cold temperatures and in public rights of way in others. And there was, you know, really an intense community effort of how do we help people who are without housing get through each day in much less of winter? It's worth reminding that, you know, in eviction protection, we have very aggressive eviction protections in place but that doesn't help you if you don't have an apartment. If - you know, that protects if you're - protects you from being evicted but if you're homeless, it doesn't do much. So there's been a lot of work and I'm sure we'll talk about the work to expand shelters and offer different alternatives. But there was a community, a big community debate about whether to change that law, that city ordinance that says you cannot sleep overnight in city parks. And ultimately, the city council voted not to change that law. But I think everybody involved in that discussion knew how important it was to keep working on creating real, safe and long-term housing for folks who are currently experiencing homelessness. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Forrest, how about your position on that short-term solution and what have, you know, what have you been doing at Beacon and home since then? 

>>FORREST GILMORE: Sure, yeah, I love a quote by Harry Hopkins, who worked for the FDR administration, where he says that people don't eat in the long run, they eat every day. And I think that's important for us to remember that although it's really important for long-term solutions and addressing those, we also have to remember that basic life functions are something that everybody has to do every day. People need to sleep, they need to eat, they need to use restrooms. And even though we can all pair together on long-term solutions, we also have to think about the short-term solutions of what people need in the immediate and the urgent situation. I mean, our position around the parks was pretty simple in that it's a constitutional right if people don't have the ability to access alternative accommodations, that they have a right to exist and sleep and be in public spaces, and that the current law is actually unconstitutional. And so we were hoping that the city council and the mayor's office would find a way to recognize that constitutional issue and come to a position that allowed for addressing that. And that doesn't take away from our willingness and desire to work with the city around and other organizations around long-term term solutions but the short-term ones are also really important. We did open a short-term winter shelter for - to, you know, that was incredibly difficult to get open. And the only reason we were able to do it is because many codes are currently waived due to the COVID state of emergency. We did manage to do that. We had as many as 70 people in that shelter, which just showed an incredible demand for homelessness. I don't think we've ever quite seen this level of street homelessness in the winter, at least my 10 years of being the executive director here at Beacon. So it was a crisis point, a very serious issue and, you know, we needed lots of flexibility to deal with a very, very complicated and dangerous issue. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Forrest, I did. I think I remember reading a column in the Herald Times by law professor Alex Stanford that suggests that maybe the law isn't so clear on sleeping in parks. Are you familiar with that? Did you read that? 

>>FORREST GILMORE: I didn't actually see that piece and I know there's certainly debate within the legal community. There are a couple of things that I know for sure. One is that the, at least the Obama administration was pretty clear about it in its Justice Department in the Martin v. Boise, Ninth Circuit Court decision was pretty clear about it and that the ordinance that got passed in Indianapolis was passed under the threat of a lawsuit from ACLU. So there's definitely a lot of legal support for that basic concept. And it comes down to, you know, a fundamental principle is that if you don't have a private space to access and you are - and it's illegal to access a public space, where can you fundamentally exist? And that's the core of the issue. It's not about, you know, if there's enough places for people to go, we want people to be able to have those spaces. It's about what happens when people don't have alternative accommodations and how do we decriminalize that basic, you know, issue of being alive and doing basic life functions, sleep, eating and just existing. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Right. John, did you want to respond to that? 

>>JOHN HAMILTON: Yeah. I actually think there's probably a lot of agreement on this about we don't believe in the city about criminalizing homelessness. And that's really a fundamental, kind of one of the fundamental legal questions is do people get arrested or criminalizing behaviors if they have no other options for where to be? We agree that people have the right to be and actually have worked very hard to try to make sure there are spaces from the Overnight's Stride Center to the, you know, to the emergency shelters that Forrest has mentioned. And there are others that many terrific partners have pulled together to try to create opportunities for those. And I think there's, you know, there may be some debate about exactly where and how but I think there's a lot of agreement that we shouldn't and don't criminalize people who are poor and who have - who are trying to find better options. And I think the community's done - you know, it is a short-term crisis and the community in the last 12 months has done extraordinary things to improve. As Forrest mentioned, we had probably some nights with 250 people in shelter, which is just an extraordinary number for our community. And it was through opening new shelters and hotel rooms and new, you know, expanding shelters that we have, that the community came together to help protect. You know, we had an individual die sleeping overnight in the park. It's not safe in freezing weather. And it's been really important to have the community step forward and try to create options. So I don't think - the courts are probably where this will get solved but it's going to be day to day trying to make sure we get better futures for everybody. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: All right. Thank you very much to both of you for outlining that issue. That's one that probably is going to be with us for a while. I want to bring in Andrew Bradley and Kyle Arbuckle. And I know both of your organizations are partners. Andrew is with Prosperity Indiana and Kyle is with the National Low-Income Housing Coalition. And I visited both of their websites and I see that they work together on a lot of things and share information. And I just wanted to, I'll ask Andrew first and then Kyle, to talk about this greater issue. You know, we've got people who are unhoused and unsheltered but we also have a lot of people that just can't afford a place to live, the extremely, extremely low-income residents and low-income residents. Can you talk about how significant, how serious that problem is around the state of Indiana and around the rest of our country? Andrew? 

>>ANDREW BRADLEY: Thanks so much, Bob, and thanks for having me on today and to all the other guests here and just listening, I think what we've been talking about so far is some of the outcomes that we see in Indiana because we haven't addressed the ongoing preexisting affordable housing crisis that's only been exacerbated during this COVID pandemic. And you know, I'm going to lean on some of the data that we have from Kyle's group, the National Low-Income Housing Coalition. But Indiana is often cast as this very affordable place to live. That doesn't bear out when it comes to affordable housing for the population, especially that we're talking about, or the extremely low-income percent of our population. In Indiana, we see that there are some of the highest cost burdens and the least number of affordable and available units in the entire Midwest. In Indiana, for example, 72% of the extremely low-income renter households have a severe cost burden, meaning that they're spending 50% or more of their income on housing. And statewide, we see that they're only 37 units of affordable and available housing for every 100 extremely low-income households. And both of those metrics that I mentioned, are second-worst in the Midwest. So we're really not keeping up with the rest of the Midwest. And a lot of that has to do with how the state is implementing federal resources and some of our state policies. And something that I'd like to mention with that is that we just had a law that was made effective in February that actually further restricts locals' ability to be able to support renter households when it comes to their renter rights. It really restricts those local abilities that we've heard discussed so far. And it actually expands possibilities for expedited three-day evictions. So you know, that's kind of the situation we're in right now, is that Indiana had this preexisting housing affordability crisis and the way that we're choosing to make our policy choices threaten to further endanger. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Kyle, I want you to weigh in on that. 

>>KYLE ARBUCKLE: Yeah, thanks for having me, I appreciate it. And thanks for, Andrew, that's a great introduction of our data. Just to go a little bit further into our data, Andrew pointed out that Indiana, I think he said 72% of renters are severely cost burden. In Monroe County, where Bloomington is, it's 86%, so it's even higher proportionately. And also, he mentioned the number of affordable and available homes for every 100 extremely low-income renters at 37, I believe you said, Andrew. And in Monroe County, it's 17. So we're seeing some really poor outcomes in Monroe County that already existed before COVID. And this data comes from the American Community Survey. So we pull this from the federal government. So these numbers are hard and real. And yeah, I think Andrew makes the point that, you know, there's an unaffordability crisis and a supply crisis, and I think you need to tackle those both head-on if you want to address the homelessness crisis, because as the mayor said, there are, you know, plenty of people that are currently sleeping on the street but there are also so many people that are on the verge of that as well. So it needs to be a two-fold aspect if you really want to see a improvement in that area. 



>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Kyle, let me follow up really quickly. Kyle, Andrew had talked about Indiana not being very good in the Midwest. I mean, how do you view it from a national level? 

>>KYLE ARBUCKLE: Yeah, I think Indiana ranks fairly high. I don't know the number off the top of my head. If you give me a second, I can pull that up. But Andrew is right that they are second in the Midwest. And in terms of housing supply, they are very low compared to the rest of the country, not as low as, you know, places like California or New York or even D.C. where I live, as those places are extremely, extremely expensive, making housing unaffordable and unavailable to extremely low-income renters. But Andrew's right in that Indiana is not the affordability haven that we believe it is, particularly for extremely low-income renters. But like I said, if you give me a second, I can tell you exactly where Indiana ranks in terms of supply. 

>>SARA WITTMEYER: So Andrew, we've gotten several questions in but this one about data, perhaps you could tackle. So the question from Stephen (ph) is, what do the people of city or county council think affordable housing is by a numbers standpoint, such as a single parent with two kids? What do they think this person should be able to afford to live? 

>>ANDREW BRADLEY: Well, the way that I would approach that is, again, I'm going to turn to some of Kyle's organization's data, they say that statewide, in order to afford a two-bedroom house, a unit, a two-bedroom unit statewide, you need to make $16.32 an hour. And yet, the average renter wage in Indiana is $14.44. And I do have that for the Bloomington area. It's actually - it's even a little bit more desperate. In order to afford a two-bedroom unit in Bloomington or at least Monroe County, you need to be earning $16.90 an hour, but the average renter in Monroe County only makes $10.86. So you can see that is a really wide gap. And what it means is that people will either be spending more than what they should of their paychecks just to keep a stable roof over their house or they're going to cut other things. They're going to live in a substandard unit. They're going to live in a smaller place than what they need for themselves and their children, or they're going to cut out other essentials, like food, like savings, like the types of things you need to be able to build a career to go to school, that kind of thing. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Those numbers are pretty dramatic. I think that gap, which is so much different from the state gap. Mayor Hamilton, is there anything we're not seeing when you look at those numbers and that gap? Is there anything that makes Bloomington an outlier? 

>>JOHN HAMILTON: No, wow, that feels like my reality every day. And I know it's the reality of a lot of people in this community. We are the most expensive market in the state, both for rental and for homeownership. I do think it's important to remind people that, both at the national level and at the state level, we've had a decades-long decline in the investment from the federal level and affordable housing. And the main thing that's done these days is the low-income housing tax credit, which is helpful. But there's been a real, in my view, dereliction over decades of real support for the housing needs of our country. We're a wealthy country, we should do better, and at the state level. You know, we planned to put inclusionary zoning in place in Bloomington five years ago when I came in, and the state legislature stepped up and said, illegal, we're not going to let you do it. Now, that's just one of the tools. But as Kyle mentioned, you know, they keep taking away tools at the local level. Now, that being said, you know, I think this community feels very strongly and we work very hard to address these challenges but they're real and homelessness is one very visible aspect of this. But there are so many people who are less visible, who are struggling, paying way more than 30% of their income for housing. And it's a combination of supply. You know, we've created about 900 units of affordable housing in the last five years by hook and by crook and however we can do it, and it's a question of wages and trying to improve those. But it's - it is a real threat and the homeless, tip of the iceberg, kind of, which is most visible, is a warning signal, that we've got to keep doing better on this. 

>>SARA WITTMEYER: Mayor Hamilton, you just touched on this a little but another question we just got in says, I grew up in Bloomington and I've seen a change over the years and all I've seen is apartments going up but not for low-income people. So just your reaction to that and then maybe also, Forrest can weigh in when you're finished. 

>>JOHN HAMILTON: Well, there are a lot of market-rate apartments that go up for sure. Actually, I probably don't have time to go through them all but we have - we do have very substantial investment over the last five years in affordable units as well. As I mentioned, nearly 1,000 new units we've got when - it ranges from - for poor elderly, we have the first Medicaid qualified, you know, care facility that opened up recently to dedicated housing force. And I go way back in, you know Crawford one and two are dedicated toward chronic homeless individuals. And we've gotten scores of people into those kind of units and we've just opened up southern NOLs and Kinser Flats is opening soon and, you know, we're converting, expanding our public housing and Crescent has opened with 115 units. So - but I don't want to disagree that we should be and could be and need to be doing more. It's just a question of finding the resources and assembling those. Now, let me also give credit, very briefly, it really matters that the federal government has just put in place this American rescue plan and that offers some really important opportunities to invest in one-time ways to improve our situation. And thank goodness the federal government has stepped up with some substantial resources. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Just a follow up quickly, before Forrest jumps in and asks John, those affordable housing units, I think you mentioned that there have been 900. Do they all meet the guidelines that Andrew and Kyle's group have set out there? I mean, can someone who's making $10 and whatever it was an hour afford to live in the places that have gone up? 

>>JOHN HAMILTON: Well, that's a really good question. No, not for all 900 of those. That really ranges from people with zero income to people with 120% of median income. But there are definitely, you know, 100 or 150 of recently opened units that are really focused on people with virtually no income. But it's a whole - that is a whole range of affordable, long-term affordable apartments, so. And you do have to look at each income band and we need more at every income band. There's no - I agree with that. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Right. Forrest, you want to offer some thoughts? 

>>FORREST GILMORE: Yeah, sure. I mean, and I appreciate that the mayor is talking about this in a way that recognizes no one agency or entity is responsible for the challenge. But that also means we all have to work together for the solution. But I think it's important to understand, too, that I've been working with Beacon Inc. for a decade, over a decade now, and the problem and we've been talking about affordable housing and housing affordability is an issue going back at least that long in our community. And the problem, as I see it on the ground, is that it's not getting actually better or even stabilized. It's getting worse, that it's harder and harder every year for us to be able to help people struggling with poverty find places to live in our community. And that's gotten harder, not easier. So the affordable housing issue is not stagnant. It's getting worse, which means that what we're doing now as a community is not enough. And we need to take that seriously. I think we need to look at housing affordability as a major crisis and make it the make it a priority, make it the priority and all of our land and housing decisions, that we have to put it at the forefront. And I'll just add, too, that there was an interesting housing study by Regional Opportunities Initiative and one of the big things they found is, and this might put a little more clarity on this, is that we actually - a lot of affordable housing comes in the rent range of 400 to $800 in rent per month. And what they found is that our real gap in our community is not in that rental range. We actually have a decent amount of housing in that rental range but it's the zero to 400. It's the - you know, it was referenced earlier, people experiencing extreme low income, extreme poverty. That's where, and the zero to 400 rental range per month, that that's where we have a major gap and a major crisis in our community. Most of the folks who I - who are experiencing homelessness or struggling with homelessness that I work with are not going to be able to afford a 500 to $800 apartment per month but they might be able to do much better with a zero to 400 range. And that's where the big gap is for people experiencing homelessness and people experiencing housing insecurity, it's that lower-end range. And so that's where we need to be building and expanding in terms of cost, is in that zero to 400 range. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: We'd love to get your thoughts and your questions. You can send them to us on Twitter @NoonEdition. You can also send them to the show at I'm glad Mayor Hamilton brought up the different levels, the different strata of low income. Kyle Arbuckle and Andrew Bradley, I know in the data that Kyle's group sends out, there's low income and then there's the extremely low income. And can you talk about those differences in how there are these different levels and how we can address all these levels at once? 

>>KYLE ARBUCKLE: Yeah, Andrew, I can do that, if that's OK? 


>>KYLE ARBUCKLE: So yeah, we do it by HUD's definition. So anything below 80% of area median income is low income and then anything below 50% is very low income. And then anything below 30% of area median income is extremely low income. Now, I think there's a perfectly good question that's brewing right now about how reliable that type of definition of affordability is, because often those area median incomes draw from really wide areas and there's a push in a lot of different places and HUD is, I think, been responsive. And they don't mind many localities doing this but doing small area mediant, like small area fair market rent numbers. So decreasing the size of what the area is that you're pulling for that median income, I think that might get at your question, Bob. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Yes. Andrew? 

>>ANDREW BRADLEY: And Bob, I'd add to that, too, that, you know, the households we're talking about, even when we're talking about that extremely low-income renter household that's 30% or below of area median income, like that has a lot of vulnerable populations but the largest single category are households that are in the labor force. So you know, while I think with Bloomington and I'm a proud IU grad myself, I think the conversation can tend to tilt over into, you know, well, you've got a student population and that just explains away the issue or that all the solutions have to do with students. You know, statewide that 37% of extremely low-income households are in the labor force and only 5% are students. So when you're talking about solutions statewide and even for Bloomington, you really need to deal with households that are working, that are also disabled households and also senior households. And then we've been working on some new data, kind of crunching who's been most affected by COVID, in terms of housing and stability? And this is statewide, but what we saw through from April to December, that white households, 27% were likely to not have confidence to pay their next month's rent. But for households of color, that jumps to 41%, 40.7% percent for Black households and 47.3% percent for Latinx households. So there is a real disparity of who's been affected by COVID when it comes to housing stability. And then that also points to some of the solutions of where we need to make sure we target emergency assistance but also making sure that they're part of the longer-term conversation about housing affordability as well. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Kyle - yeah, I was just going to ask if those numbers are consistent nationally. 

>>KYLE ARBUCKLE: Yeah, and more or less, when I - I'll cross my states, I covered Indiana and Southeast for our field team and I believe what - I wanted to say, that's a really important point. That's something that I usually bring up when I give a presentation about these data that, yes, most extreme low-income renters in most states are either working or disabled or are seniors. So they either are working or can't work or struggle to work. And I think Andrew makes a great point that, you know, these are people in the labor force that make usually minimum wage or slightly above minimum wage but that doesn't mean that they can get into those apartments that the mayor mentioned. And I want to follow up on something that the mayor said. He's absolutely right. The federal government has been derelict in their duty for decades at this point. And NLIC recognizes that for sure and I wanted to plug our house campaign that Andrew has been helping us find. I can talk a little bit more about that later. I think we're still talking about the income levels. But yes, Andrew is correct in that data and I think it, you know, broadly translates widely that we see extremely low-income renters either work or can't work or struggle to find work because they're either disable or seniors. So they cannot get into those market-rate apartments because wages have not kept up with the cost of housing. Wages have not increased at all in this country for decades. And so they have not kept up with cost of housing so they can't get into a market-rate apartment without subsidy or subsidized construction. 

>>SARA WITTMEYER: We have a question for the mayor, and this one is about the - what will be the old hospital site and how that's going to be developed. The questions from Jenny (ph) and she says, the city will be the original landowners. Can they make covenants that the site owner-occupied because we need affordable homes? 

>>JOHN HAMILTON: The short answer is yes. And let me just give a little frame. I really appreciate Kyle, Andrew, your points. You're right on. And thank you for the work that you do. You know, every day in Monroe County and mostly in Bloomington, our housing authority has more than 1,500 families that are in public housing. And that means they pay no more than 30% of their income. That is the kind of solution that you steer the rent, you link the rent to the income so that people can afford it. Now, that's good but we have huge waiting lists and we don't have the resources, the housing authority, you know, part of the federal housing program doesn't have the resources to go from 1,300 vouchers and 200 units to we could do 2,500 vouchers to help people. We just don't - we don't have that resource. But that's really the kind of thing that we would like to see. And we do what we can locally and we should do more, I agree with that. On the hospital site, you know, we bought that land, the 24 acres exactly in order to be able to steer it into affordable and other uses that are consistent with the community. And we've had a big study and there's more work to be done. And I expect there will be a lot of affordable housing, both ownership and rental in that area. It's going to be a partnership with nonprofits and developers to figure out how do we assemble the land which the city will own and the developers in the capital and the market? And you know, what's the long-term opportunity there? Forrest knows and some of you know, I am strongly committed to very long-term affordability, permanent affordability, 99 years or longer so you're not always chasing your tail. And that's a great opportunity to do that at the hospital. And it'll be a multiyear process but we look forward to seeing some really important new opportunities for people from all walks of life to live in that new neighborhood. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: I wanted to follow up with Forrest, I think Kyle, you mentioned when we were talking about incomes, I think it's a good time to try to transfer this to potential solutions and strategies. That zero to $400 rental number, I mean, Mayor Hamilton talked about, you know, the federal government's help. But what other strategies are there to be able to provide that kind of housing? 

>>FORREST GILMORE: Yeah, that's a great question and a really important and we do have to think locally because we can't count on the state or the federal, you know, landscape to change in any significant way. But we do have some capacity to change what we do here. I think one of the most important things we need to do is really take, you know, we have a housing trust fund, I think we really need to take that housing trust fund seriously and create a replenishable source of income for that of some subsets, like I think we need a kind of a moonshot here around the taboo word but of dealing with some kinds of a tax investment into paying for and subsidizing affordable housing in our community. And then we really need to take that seriously and go for it. But we also, I think, need to look at the, you know, the private and public partnership. One model that really excites me is a model out of Austin, Texas, called Community First Village, where they built a very large scale village of tiny homes and other, you know, housing access for folks that comes in the range of somewhere, I think it peaks at around $375 per month in terms of rent. So it creates that affordability of that access for people. And they did, again, it was a major public-private partnership that raised a substantial amount of money to start it and get it going and it's been expanding ever since. And I think that's one really extraordinary model we can look at. They have over 500 units in that space now, and it's very impressive and a model, I think, that we should explore, both on a city and county level to - we need to obviously deal with finding the land where we could do something like that and then coming up with the income to do it. But again, I really think we need to be thinking moonshot here. We need to be thinking big and first priority, and it's got to drive all the decisions we make as a community because it is a tremendously terrible issue that is getting worse and we can't keep doing the same thing and expect a different result. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Give me an example of a moonshot for us. 

>>FORREST GILMORE: Well, those were two right there, a big tax increase and then two, address, you know, making that housing trust fund replenishable. You know, I think we should be trying to put something like $5 million a year into that housing trust fund, at least, which could help us build, you know, an affordable complex a year just from local money. That doesn't include what's coming out from other resources. And you know, going for this public-private partnership to kind of create some kind of tiny home village of great significance similar to Community First. Those would be the two things that I would want to shoot for the moon, so to speak, to try and accomplish locally. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: John, is that something the CDFI would be involved with? 

>>JOHN HAMILTON: Well, you're - yes. You're mentioning the CDFI community development financial institution, CDFI friendly city, Bloomington, which is a new organization that's brought about $20 million of outside money in to help do some of the affordable housing projects that are here. And look, I advocated a tax increase. Forrest and I are on the same page on this. I didn't win. And he supported it, tried to in the city council a year ago or so. But I totally agree that we need income locally to support it. It is important to note these are regional problems. You can't - we're not an island in terms of solving these issues, both from resources and from programs. And there's a really wonderful group that's led by our local United Way and our local community foundation folks who are convening to talk about housing and security at a regional level. But I think both of those are things to look at and something I get behind, I have gotten behind. I do think continuing to recognize the regional nature and the importance, ongoing importance of advocacy at the state and national levels. I'm not as - I'm not as forlorn about the national direction. I think we've got some friends who really do take affordable housing seriously. And I think the recent rescue plan and the infrastructure plan have very substantial steps forward in this stuff. And that's - it really is a national market that we need to deal with and do our part locally, too. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: We have about 15 minutes to go. If you have a question or comment, you can send them to us, You can also follow us on Twitter and send us questions there @NoonEdition. Sara? 

>>SARA WITTMEYER: Forrest, we got a question about shelters. And the question is, what's the potential for making more short-term opportunities like low barrier shelters available? The socioeconomic effects of the pandemic are not going away. 

>>FORREST GILMORE: Yeah, agreed, and I'll say that sheltering is incredibly complicated from a zoning standpoint and trying to even find properties that are - that where you can put long-term shelters is very difficult and expensive. So - but I think there's another kind of concern that I have about sheltering in general, which is I am supportive of it, although obviously, I think there's a way in which we often go directly towards sheltering as the way to deal with homeless issues. And my concern is that we get in a fight about, as a community every few years, about when street homelessness becomes more prominent and we start to see significant growth in street homelessness. And the core of that fight, we've attempted to solve over the years with sheltering and increasing sheltering. But in my view, the fundamental issue in our community, the gap or the, kind of the bottleneck in our community is housing. And if we continue to build sheltering without a real sincere effort to address shelter - address housing, we're going to continue in these fights for years and years and years. We have to look, square in the eye, this fundamental issue of housing affordability in our community and we have to fix it. We can't keep relying on sheltering to solve our homeless, our street homeless issue. And so that's challenging and hard to talk about. But the reality is the bottleneck in our system is housing and we have to solve that problem. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: I wanted to ask Kyle Arbuckle from National Low-Income Housing Coalition and also, Andrew Bradley from Prosperity Indiana, Forrest mentioned the program in Austin that he thinks has a lot of potential. What other programs have you seen around the country or around the state that you think would have promised and would be good strategies to pursue? Kyle? 

>>KYLE ARBUCKLE: Yeah. One of the biggest ones that we've seen, especially during the pandemic, is the theme of sheltering program, the hotel sheltering program, where FEMA will reimburse states and localities at 100% to provide hotel shelters - hotel sheltering for people experiencing homelessness. And you know, something else that came out of Austin recently, not to rock the boat too much, but they also shifted funding from their public safety resources to permanent supportive housing, you know, considering that they have a very acute homelessness problem in their city as well. I think those are two of the biggest ones. Andrew can probably speak to maybe some of the other ones around the state of Indiana that you see. 

>>ANDREW BRADLEY: And I'd like to underline how Kyle just mentioned about FEMA funding, he said 100%, which could allow some of these hotels and motels that have been sitting largely unused for the past year to be able to be put to use to help increase housing stability. And that's a key puzzle piece that's sitting out there in between some of the longer-term supply issues that we've been talking about and also, the shorter-term housing stability and eviction problem issues that we have. And a couple of things that I'd like to mention at the state level in terms of solutions that we could be looking for is Indiana really does have some opportunities that it's missed this year but aren't going to go away in terms of making sure that we help those who have fallen through the gaps. So even though in the past year, there's only been two weeks in Indiana where there hasn't been an eviction moratorium in place either at the state or the federal level, Indiana's seen over 38,000 eviction filings over that time. And we have been working with eviction lab from Princeton University to get county-level data. And what we've seen is that those rates have only gone up of eviction filings since SCA-148, the eviction bill passed in February. And most strikingly, the highest rates of increase have been in some of the more small town and rural parts of the state. So it really points to that there needs to be policy solutions to help address that, to prevent it but to help those who do slip through the cracks. We've been working on solutions to create an eviction expungement process, to create a right for tenants to see their tenant screening records, to create problem-solving housing courts, to test effective remedies for tenants and landlords. Unfortunately, all of those were left on the table during the General Assembly. So there's going to need to be a lot of work done over the next year and into the next session in order to be able to help these people in the short and the long term. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Kyle, anything - any other programs, more on the affordable housing as opposed to the sheltering area that you can point to? 

>>KYLE ARBUCKLE: Yes, that is a great question. And I think this would be a perfect time for me to plug that campaign that I was talking about, that Andrew is actually working very closely with us on. So we have a House campaign, HOUSCB, we capitalize in the US to emphasize universal and stable. So President Biden, before he took office, said that he wanted to make sure that everyone who needed a voucher could get one. Currently, only 1 out of 4 people in the voucher receive one. And NLIC is committed to bridging that gap and also other programs as well. So we want to increase supply as well. One of the big programs that we advocate for is the Housing Trust Fund, the National Housing Trust Fund. I think Forrest mentioned, that Bloomington has one. I think that's great. I think a lot of states and localities have those dedicated streams of funding for building housing for low-income renters and I think that's great but we want to expand the national one and provide those resources that Forrest said is missing and the mayor, and the right that are missing from states and localities. So expanding the housing trust fund, addressing the public housing backlog and repairs. There's about $70 billion in deferred maintenance and public housing across the country. And also, we want to increase renter protections. So allowing people that do have vouchers get into housing. There's a lot of source of income, discrimination rampant across the country, across Indiana and we want to be able to protect renters that have vouchers or any type of other housing subsidy. And we also are very interested in less restrictive zoning laws. So those four buckets are part of this campaign. And we have a slew of legislation that's already been introduced that we're hoping will be reintroduced and that the Biden administration will seriously consider these proposals. They've already signaled that they're very open to it. I saw today, actually, that the president's skinny budget came out and it was about several trillion dollars and included a lot of focus on social services and housing, as an infrastructure package does as well. And we're seeing pretty broad support from a lot of Democrats in Congress. We're not seeing a lot of bipartisan support but we're hopeful that, you know, we can get this across the finish line and get a lot of legislation that would increase funding and, you know, increase functionality of these programs. So that's a lot of what NLIC is working on. And like I said, Andrew is working very closely with us on that as well, along with others. 

>>ANDREW BRADLEY: And if you don't mind me chiming back in for just a sec, you know, on this House campaign, this is something where at the state level, we're not really wanting to be able to connect with Hoosiers and be able to tell these stories. We've already started the conversation on this campaign with both the US senators, as well as the local Congressman Hollingsworth but we could use more support for this. If folks go to or housing4hoosiers with the number four, that's the way you can sign up and you can help us tell your stories with your congressional delegation on this campaign. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: All right. 

>>KYLE ARBUCKLE: Absolutely, absolutely. 

>>SARA WITTMEYER: So Forrest, just a couple of quick questions that we got in, and one is about the capacity of churches to help. Just wondering if they can really step up and help people and, like, let them stay there overnight? Restrooms be available. It will be warm. And the other question is about the building just south of Kroger along the b-line trail, can't we put that to use? 

>>FORREST GILMORE: I haven't looked into that building south of Kroger, so I'd have to have to check. I think what a lot of people don't know about and churches have these regulations, too, is that there are an enormous amount of zoning regulations that make sheltering expensive and difficult. The Interfaith Winter Shelter, for example, was only able to operate as it did because of the limited number of nights that people stayed at each church. And if people were to stay at the church for more than 30 nights a year, suddenly a lot of additional regulations kick in and make it much more challenging financially. So there are certain areas in the city that currently allow homeless shelters as a conditional use and - but many other areas require other restrictions and so it would require their, you know, approvals and such. So it's not an easy process at all to build sheltering in our community. Yeah. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Yeah, I want to ask you, Forrest, and Mayor Hamilton, we only have just - we have about two minutes to go. So I just wanted an update on Crawford Homes. You know, that's been looked at as a success story in town. Both of you worked hard on it. I don't know how many years ago it was now that Crawford one opened but can you give us an update on what's going on there? How many people are housed and how's the housing first model? Has it been successful? 

>>FORREST GILMORE: Yeah, it absolutely is profoundly successful. It doesn't always feel that way to some people looking from the outside because they don't fully understand it. But one of the things that we've seen is that in the people who are living in those homes that - who had previously been long-term homeless on the streets, that were showing massive improvements in both their health and in their - and reductions in their interactions with the criminal justice system, like 90% reductions in interactions with the criminal justice system. So dramatic improvements in that way. It's by far not a cure-all. And so people still have struggles. There still are people active with active substance abuse issues and things like that. And they're still great challenges and needs for more investment in the people who live there. But it's definitely working and accomplishing what we hoped it would. There's two Crawford Apartments right now and there's 63 units in those two apartment complexes. 

>>JOHN HAMILTON: I remember, Forrest, it was in, I think it was in the Episcopal Church downtown at that Shalom. I was on the board and you were advocating and we took that step to say we're going to get into this permanent supportive housing, even though we were a day shelter. And that was a big step for the organization and I think the right one. And as you've said, I think it's made a huge difference in those lives and it's the right thing. Housing first is the right policy and, you know, it's going to be an issue in front of the council as these less restrictive zoning laws come forward. That my ears perked up as I heard that from Kyle. But you know, this takes work on all fronts. It takes collaboration from government, nonprofit, private sector, different levels of government. I am hopeful that we can move the ball forward. We have a much more supportive federal government now. And this money coming in with the rescue plan will make a big difference. So we're going to be deciding how to invest that so people can get involved at the city council to help steer this into some of these housing solutions. I think it's an exciting opportunity ahead of us. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: All right. We are out of time. I want to thank you all for this conversation today. It's a very difficult issue, and I think we made a lot of headway in explaining about the issue and offering some decent strategies and solutions. So thank you very much to Forrest Gilmore from Beacon Incorporated, John Hamilton, the mayor of the city of Bloomington, Andrew Bradley from Prosperity Indiana and Kyle Arbuckle from the National Low-Income Housing Coalition. For our producer, Bente Bouthier, for Sara Wittmeyer, my co-host, for John Bailey, our engineer. I'm Bob Zaltsberg. Thanks for listening to Noon Edition. 


Rev. Forrest Gilmore folds blankets as he prepares to open the new shelter to anyone who needs a place to stay this winter. (Joey Mendolia, WFIU/WTIU News)

Noon Edition airs on Fridays at noon on WFIU.

Vulnerable populations have been hit hard by the pandemic, experiencing problems such as increased food insecurity, lost jobs, and housing instability. This week on Noon Edition, we’ll talk about actions the city is taking to improve housing options for people experiencing homelessness in Bloomington, and what more is possible.

Local shelters and service providers estimate that as many as 400 local people  don’t have stable housing. Organizations such as Beacon Inc. and New Hope For Families report increased need for services in the last year, even as their resources were strained adapting to COVID-19 health guidelines.

People experiencing homelessness had set up tents and other encampments in Seminary Park during the pandemic. During winter months, the city began enforcing existing rules that forbade overnight camping in public parks.

Last month, the city council considered a proposal  to designate an area where people experiencing housing instability could sleep without repercussion. The final vote was split 4-4, with one councilmember absent, meaning the measure did not pass. 

According to The National Alliance To End Homelessness, more than 5,200 people are homeless on a given night in Indiana and about 15 % of these people are unsheltered.

The city has made efforts to create more affordable housing in recent years, and 64 new homes are set to be built near Switchyard Park beginning in June.  A city statement says 48 of these units will be dedicated to residents earning 30 to 80% of the area’s median income.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition says affordable rental housing is 30 % of area median income, and people living below the poverty line often spend more than half their income on housing.

Advocacy groups such as Prosperity Indiana recommend policies that improve housing stability resources. The group also recommends communities “reduce administrative burden placed on local service providers that inhibit their ability to provide effective, innovative community development programs.”

You can follow us on Twitter @NoonEdition or join us on the air by calling in at 812-855-0811 or toll-free at 1-877-285-9348. You can also send us questions for the show at

Note-This week of our guests and hosts will participate remotely to avoid risk of spreading infection. 


Forrest Gilmore, Beacon Inc. executive director

John Hamilton, Bloomington mayor 

Kyle Arbuckle, National Low Income Housing Coalition, advocacy organizer 

Andrew Bradley, Prosperity Indiana policy director 

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