People of Housing Security:
Centerstone outreach worker meets people where they are
When Bill Ferry first started working at Centerstone, he did not expect his work to have such a large impact on his life.
After graduating Indiana University in 2005, Bill started his career in California in the radio industry. After moving back to Bloomington, a friend directed him to Centerstone, an organization that provides behavioral health services, addiction treatment, and supportive housing. Initially, he thought this would be a temporary job where he might work for a couple of years. However, Bill soon became extremely passionate about the work he was doing.
Years later, Bill now considers his work with Centerstone his mission, his life and the fabric of who he is. He believes the richness of life is found in helping others. “People doing well are my reason to keep going,” Bill said.
Bill is currently serving as an outreach worker for the Projects for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness (PATH) program. His days look different, ranging from data reporting to acting as a liaison with different agencies in the community. Bill’s reputation of being a genuinely kind and hardworking street outreach worker often precedes him.
Bill spends a lot of time meeting people who are unsheltered and are living on the streets. Not only does he meet people that are experiencing homelessness, but he also helps to provide these people with the services and support they need. This includes building a support network for those who are chronically homeless, helping with application fees, moving services, and transportation to Indianapolis for supportive housing hearings.
On difficult days, Bill says it’s important to step back when feeling overwhelmed. He said it also motivates him when he remembers that people are relying on him for his help.
“Homelessness is not a choice.” – Bill Ferry
While Bill loves working in the field of housing security, there are some things he wishes people knew about people experiencing homelessness. First, he wants people to know that helping someone who is experiencing homelessness is not simple. It’s a lengthy process, because homelessness is a complex issue. Every situation is unique, which results in different needs. Street outreach workers like Bill have the responsibility of meeting people where they are.
According to Bill, a common misconception about people experiencing housing insecurity is that people cannot get out of homelessness and will always be chronically homeless. Homelessness is not a lifestyle that is chosen, he says.
“Homelessness is not a choice,” Bill said. “It is not caused by laziness, and it is not a character defect.” At times, homelessness can be tied to a systemic failure. He believes it is our community’s responsibility to address these disparities.
In May of 2023, one third of Bill’s life will have been dedicated to housing security. Bill’s dedication to helping those experiencing homelessness and his work with Centerstone continually impacts the Bloomington community and the people in it.
About the People of Housing Security: This series highlights the work of those committed to improving the lives of residents in South Central Indiana. Find all the articles in this series here.