“I can tell you exactly how much I love living here. First, let me ask you what your favorite food is,” Durrell inquired as we sat in a lounge at the Crawford Apartments in Bloomington, IN. “I sincerely enjoy lasagna,” I responded. “Exactly ─ living here is like eating the best piece of lasagna. I just love it,” he reported before taking me on a tour of the building that ended with showing me his own apartment.
Crawford Apartments is a 25 unit supportive housing apartment building that opened in September of 2013. Named after Mr. Frank “Road Dog” Crawford, a gentleman who passed away while experiencing homelessness in Bloomington, the development targets people who have faced chronic homelessness and multiple barriers. Among other things, LifeDesigns, the Shalom Center, Hayes-Gibson International Property Management, and their partners see this as a strong step toward never allowing another person to die on these streets.
Durrell was proud to show me a number of building highlights, but none more than the blanket on his bed. He disclosed that he used to curl up under it while sleeping on the sidewalk near the old court house. It remains important to him as a symbol of how far he has come.
While serving a brief prison sentence for violating his probation, Durrell learned about and followed the progress of Crawford Apartments through the newspaper. While he had cycled through jail for drinking in public, Durrell had never been to prison before. The idea of potentially living in such a beautiful apartment building with support services helped him to feel hopeful while there. After his release, an outreach worker asked if she could help him move into Crawford Apartments as he qualified for this housing opportunity. He was delighted to say yes.
On the table in his family room he displayed a poster of the Indiana University Basketball team with several autographs. A few of the players came by to play basketball with the residents recently and Durrell was eager to tell the story of scrimmaging with these athletes.
While discussing his neighbors, Durrell commented that he was unsure as to why some of them still slept outside behind the dumpster. He went on to say that he was very happy to be able to sleep inside in his own home.
Later during my visit, I met one of the gentleman Durrell had described. He explained that he kept his things nice and dry inside, and came in if it was cold or if he felt like it, but that he has spent many nights sleeping under the stars since moving in two months ago. He went on to say that he loved having a home and knowing he could come inside at anytime, though he has been sleeping outside for years and it may take a little while to fully adjust to sleeping inside. The staff members offering support at Crawford Apartments champion his right to transition into living in his home at his own pace. After all, their harm reduction approach ensures that tenants are able to move in the direction of change as they feel comfortable doing so.
When asked if he would be willing to take a photo, Durrell said that he would be glad to do so and that it should include his brand new crock-pot, as he loves to cook. So he graciously posed in his kitchen as I imagined what it must be like to live in a place that is just as amazing as the best piece of lasagna ever made. It sounds like an ideal place to call home.