Experiencing Homelessness in Bloomington

Experiencing Homelessness in Bloomington

“It was a struggle every day,” said Katrina Sanders as she reflected on her experiences with homelessness.  

She and Ernie Brewster volunteered to share their personal stories at Wake Up! with United Way “Experiencing Homelessness in Bloomington.” The discussion was moderated by Rev. Forrest Gilmore, Executive Director of Beacon, Inc.  

United Way is partnering with the Community Foundation of Monroe County to bring together stakeholders in the region around housing insecurity and homelessness. The group is updating the 2014 Heading Home Plan for 2021 and beyond, looking at systemic root causes, with the aim to make homelessness rare, brief, and non-repeating for individuals and families in our region. As this work moves forward it is imperative that the voices of those with lived experience are lifted, heard, and valued.

We thank panelists Katrina and Ernie for sharing their personal experiences so that community members may have a deeper understanding of the effects of and challenges surrounding homelessness.


Ernie said he has been homeless for “quite a while.” He became homeless when his relationship at the time ended, and he couldn’t find a new place to stay.  

Currently, Ernie is staying with a friend while he is on a waitlist for an apartment. Although he’s been waiting for some time, he’s hoping he can move into his own home soon.  

He works full-time as a custodian at the Shalom Center and shared that he has a love for cleaning and is happy to have this job.


Katrina moved to Bloomington in 2010 and lived without stable housing from 2011 until September 2020. Katrina became homeless after she served 6 months in prison.  

“I got mixed up with the wrong people,” she said. And serving time was very difficult for her. “All I did was cry and read books.”

Once she was released, she had no place to go. But she did see it as a turning point in her life. She served two years of probation and was eventually able to have her felony expunged.  

“I refused to ever go back to jail,” she said. “That’s not me.”

During this time, Katrina had stable employment and even attended college, but she struggled to find housing. She was staying at A Friend’s Place (Martha’s House at the time) with her then husband when she found out she was pregnant with her first son.  

Katrina went through two pregnancies without stable housing, and her and her family often stayed at friends’ and family’s homes. It was difficult for her to be accepted for an apartment with a gap in her rental history.  

“It makes it that much harder to even find an apartment,” she said. “You get discouraged. You get depressed.”

Despite being discouraged, Katrina was driven by a desire to provide for her children. She has now found stable housing for her and her boys with her mother and stepfather.  

“Throughout the years, my children have kept me going,” she said. “I still kept going because I needed to as a mother."

Katrina recently bought her sons new fishing poles and is looking forward to taking them fishing like she did as a kid.  

“I want to take the boys and do some creek-stomping and find some crawdads,” she said, “and let them have fun this summer and let them be full-blown boys and get muddy all over.”  


Ernie and Katrina both shared valuable personal perspectives on the issue of homelessness in Bloomington.  

When asked about what the community can do better, Ernie expressed a need for more shelters. He is worried for the folks that will be without a place to stay when the Beacon’s temporary Winter Shelter closes.  

Katrina expressed how trauma can cause mental health issues and substance use disorder, which often makes it more difficult for individuals to break the cycle of poverty and homelessness. She highlighted how individuals who struggle with substance use disorder often do not have the resources to endure detox and withdrawal symptoms to stay at emergency shelters that require sobriety.

To hear more about their stories and insights they have about homelessness and housing security, watch the video below.


Homelessness Resources Resources

Helpful Resources:


Join us for the next Wake Up! with United Way "Accessing Healthcare While Chronically Homeless."


Wake Up! with United Way is a collaborative project of United Way of Monroe County and IU’s Political and Civic Engagement Program. The series is made possible by the following sponsors:


Premier Series Sponsor

Bloomington Township


Presenting Sponsors

Community Foundation of Bloomington and Monroe County
IU Credit Union
Program Sponsors
Duke Energy
Old National Bank