BY CARMEN SIERING
“Life isn’t usually a straight line, but having a home dampens the swings so when something bad does happen, it’s not quite so bad,” says Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton. That’s the idea behind the “housing first” model of addressing homelessness.
Crawford Homes, located on South Henderson Street, provides permanent, supportive housing for those suffering from long-term homelessness due to mental illness, chronic disease, late-stage addiction, and physical and developmental disabilities. Crawford I opened in 2013 and, according to those involved with the 25-unit complex, has proven to be a success.
In November 2016, the groundbreaking took place for Crawford II. The new building will offer 35 secure, furnished, one-bedroom units next to the original complex. Like the original building, Crawford II will be LEED certified for leadership in energy and environmental design.
“Crawford I has been a powerful example of how giving people housing can make a dramatic improvement in their lives,” says Hamilton.
Rev. Forrest Gilmore, executive director of Shalom Community Center, agrees. “These apartments are life-changing and life-saving,” he says. “We’ve seen all kinds of impacts, from significant health improvements to addiction reduction to proper health care to happier people.”
In its first year, Crawford residents increased their income by 29 percent, reduced incarcerations by 88 percent, and reduced emergency room use by 65 percent.
Like the original project, the new $7.4 million building project, funded by the state, is being developed by LIFEDesigns. Services for residents will be provided by Shalom in partnership with other providers in the South Central Housing Network.
Susan Rinne, LIFEDesigns CEO, says community support is vital to improving the lives of those experiencing homelessness. “We’ve had great collaboration with a number of local organizations, most recently with Volunteers in Medicine,” she says. “By providing primary and preventive care and getting people health insurance, costs are obviously going to go down.”
Mayor Hamilton notes that while the project is directed at helping the homeless, it is also benefitting Bloomington as a whole. “Crawford is creating a community that is very supported, and because of that there is a little less strain on all of the people who work in social services, criminal justice, and health care,” he says. “In that way, it really is helping our entire community.” *