People of Housing Security:
Bobby Overman

A retired librarian and long-time landlord urges other landlords to support the community by renting to tenants with housing vouchers

If you’re a patron of the Monroe County Public Library, you probably know Bobby Overman. She was the point person for MCPL’s Nonprofit Central for many years and is well-known in the community.

Bobby started working at MCPL in 1992 and retired last year, with a three-year gap during that period to work as a Peace Corps volunteer in Belize. It was through her job — when she oversaw the library’s services at the Monroe County jail — that she connected with New Leaf, New Life, where she currently serves as board chair.

New Leaf provides support and services for people incarcerated or recently released from jail or prison, and is just one of the nonprofits that Bobby supports. She’s also treasurer of Courage to Change Sober Living, which operates programs and four sober-living houses in Monroe County. About 90% of their clients come directly from jail or prison, Bobby said, looking to get their life back on track.

Both organizations help connect people with housing, and Bobby herself has been a landlord since the 1990s. She has rented to people with housing vouchers, and doesn’t understand why some landlords are reluctant to do the same.

“They do pay their rent,” she noted. “They don’t destroy things. They’re not any worse than any other tenant — they just aren’t.”

When tenants have housing vouchers, landlords have guaranteed fair market rent. “I think landlords should take a chance,” Bobby said. “It’s no different than renting to anyone else in this town.”

“I think landlords should take a chance” and rent to tenants with Vouchers. “It’s no different than renting to anyone else in this town.”

Bobby Overman

Part of Bobby’s passion for working with New Leaf and Courage to Change is because she’s had family members with substance use disorders who have ended up in the criminal justice system. “I’ve seen it first hand. I’ve seen the lack of resources and I’ve seen what a difference it makes to have people who understand where you’re coming from, who aren’t judgmental about it, who are willing to say ‘Hey, let me just help you with this.'”

Bobby also supports the Housing First approach and sees how having stable housing is so important for recovery. “It is really hard to think about going to meetings and being clean when you don’t know where you’re going to sleep or how you’re going to eat.” When you feel safe and can get some rest, she adds, then you can concentrate on other parts of your life, like getting sober and getting a job.

Bobby has an undergraduate degree in criminal justice and sociology, with a master’s in library science — both from Indiana University. She grew up in the small Indiana town of Upland, but has been in Bloomington since coming here to study in 1977.

In addition to her work with New Leaf and Courage to Change, Bobby volunteers with People’s Market and Pantry 279. She also loves hiking with friends and travel. Since retiring, she has taken trips to India, Belize and Alaska. She’s often accompanied by her husband, photographer Michael Lindsay.

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.