People of Housing Security:
The key to 30 years of service is being present
Cindy Burdine grew up in Canada until her parents bought a business in Palm Springs, California. Upon graduating high school, she enrolled at San Francisco State as a dance major. At the time, Cindy was really passionate about raising awareness about societal issues. She enjoyed choreographing dances that had social justice statements. After some time, Cindy realized that she didn’t want to exclusively dance about the issues but instead work in the field of social services – a decision that ultimately led her to IU Health Positive Link.
After transferring to Colorado University she was introduced to INVST, a student group dedicated to social justice. She then became more passionate about changing her degree plan to reflect these interests. She created her own major: Social Environmental Problems & A Sustainable Future. Being a first-generation college student, Cindy admitted that she didn’t fully realize what degree paths were out there.
Out of college, her first professional job was starting a children’s program in a family shelter. Cindy explained that this was a dream job – her favorite job to date. She explained her goal was to “have their life be as normal as possible while they were going through the housing system.” After 10 years of working in Colorado, Cindy and her family moved to Port Angeles, Washington.
During her time in Washington, Cindy spent 10 years at Serenity House. Serenity House divides its work into five departments: coordinated entry, youth service programs, three housing sites, a 24/7 shelter, and thrift store. She helped develop many programs in her community including several Housing First programs, a housing resource center, and Rapid Rehousing programs. Cindy explained how she was “always on the cusp of new programs starting.” She started as program director and left as deputy director.
Eventually Cindy and her family moved to Bloomington because they wanted better education opportunities for their kids. Her husband was originally from Indiana and they were looking for a university town, so IU just made sense. Her sons are now both IU alum.
“you can’t fix everything, but you can still be present.”
This was the origin story of the work Cindy does today, serving as the Housing Services Manager for IU Health Positive Link. This year, Cindy is celebrating 10 years with the organization. IU Health Positive Link has hepatitis C (HCV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) services, as well as prevention services, outreach, education, and housing to those living with AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, the most advanced stage of the HIV infection). IU Health Positive Link also has a primary care clinic, which has been a game changer since infectious disease doctors are often too busy to book primary care appointments with patients.
IU Health Positive Link provides two permanent supportive housing programs: Housing Links and Bridges. Housing Links aims to house homeless individuals who also have HIV. Bridges is for individuals who do not have HIV. Bridges was formed to fill a gap that IU Health saw in the hospitals. IU Health noticed that oftentimes patients with behavioral health challenges were being discharged to homelessness. So Bridges works to be the bridge for these individuals.
In her day-to-day work, Cindy notes that a large part of her job is mentoring six housing case managers. “I’m the cheerleader for them,” she said. A big part of Cindy’s job is grant management. She writes requests and tracks claims. Cindy is also involved in landlord engagement as well as tenant education. She is working to collaborate with landlords to increase options for those looking for housing with a voucher.
Out of curiosity, we asked Cindy what the connection was between AIDS and housing security. Cindy explained the Reagan and Bush administrations responded to the HIV crisis with federal funding to support prevention, testing, and relief programs for those living with HIV. At that time people diagnosed with HIV had higher mortality rates. Cindy explained that housing is a social determinant of health. “Housing is healthcare,” she said.
Working in this field for the past 30 years, Cindy explained how “working with people, helping people, and seeing successes” makes it all worthwhile. However, she hopes to ground herself and others in this reality: “Change is slow.” She explained that people in the field of social services desire to know their efforts are making a difference in the lives of people.
In Cindy’s eyes, it’s important to know that “you can’t fix everything, but you can still be present.” She wants to encourage people not to discount the impact of being present.
When describing herself, Cindy said she’s “a nature lover, dog lover, and helper of humans.” Cindy and her husband are now empty nesters since their two sons went off to college. They enjoy living in a cabin in the woods. One of her favorite places to hike is in her backyard. They own a husky, Tribal, who keeps Cindy active on these hikes. Escaping into nature helps her balance out the stress of work.
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.