Understanding the Homelessness Crisis and Responses in Bloomington, Indiana


  • Josephine McQuillan Indiana University School of Medicine, Hoosier Public Health Corps
  • Rachel Downey Hoosier Public Health Corps, Indiana University School of Medicine




This study addresses the complex challenges of homelessness in Bloomington, Indiana. Beacon, Inc., a nonprofit based in Bloomington, plays a pivotal role in providing support to individuals experiencing homelessness in south-central Indiana. Beacon’s approach prioritizes immediate and barrier-free access to shelter and housing while eliminating stringent entry requirements. Beacon offers three distinct programs: Friend’s Place, an emergency shelter; Rapid Re-Housing, facilitating rapid transitions to stable housing; and Crawford Homes, providing permanent supportive housing. 

This research, conducted in partnership with Beacon, employs a mixed-methods approach to examine homelessness in the city of Bloomington. It includes a literature review, quantitative data analysis from nationwide counts and Beacon’s programs, and interviews with Beacon staff to gain insights into the housing crisis and its unique dynamics in this community.

The results underscore the impact of Beacon’s programs in 2022 on individuals experiencing extreme poverty in Indiana’s Region 10, which consists of six south-central counties. Despite the success of these programs, challenges persist for individuals experiencing homelessness, particularly in combating chronic homelessness. Interviews with Beacon staff highlighted additional barriers to housing, including high rents, inflexible landlords, evictions, and entanglement with the criminal justice system.

This study suggests the need for diverse strategies, including expanding Housing First programs and supportive housing models, as well as long-term government housing subsidies for low-income renters. These solutions can reduce reliance on emergency shelters and work to prevent chronic/recurrent homelessness. By employing a mixed-methods research approach, this study offers valuable insights into homelessness and housing assistance programs, providing a foundation for future research aimed at addressing homelessness more comprehensively in Bloomington and similar communities.