People of Housing Security:
Heidi Flynn

Resident services coordinator for Bloomington Housing Authority helps address short-term needs and works to end cycle of poverty

Heidi Flynn keeps a sign in her office at the Bloomington Housing Authority: “One person can make a difference and everyone should try.”

That ethos guides her work as BHA’s resident services coordinator, where she makes a difference every day.

Her work is focused on helping residents find resources and stay stably housed. That includes finding emergency funds if they can’t pay their rent, teaching people about budgeting and other basic skills, and helping apply for services like Medicaid or food stamps. “Basically services that help them survive and maintain their housing,” she said.

Heidi also problem-solves for residents and others who contact her office.

“A lot of people don’t understand that if they’d come to me when they first have a problem, it’s so much easier to resolve,” Heidi noted. If it gets to the point when an eviction notice is filed, “then we’re scrambling.” To encourage communication, she builds relationships with residents as much as possible. “If they don’t know you, they’re not going to come ask for help.”

Heidi also points out that many people in poverty don’t have the networks of support that they can turn to in an emergency. “If for whatever reason you needed $50 and you didn’t have a dime to your name, you could call someone to help you out. But a lot of people that we see here don’t have that option.”

“People realize that poverty is very much a cycle,” she said, continuing generation after generation. “Everyone talks about that, but no one works at fixing it.” The clients that she really enjoys working with recognize that cycle and work to break it.

In the broader community, many people want to help those in poverty, “but a lot of times the way that they help doesn’t change the bigger picture,” Heidi said. Food and clothing drives help address an immediate need, for example, which is great. But that doesn’t address the underlying systemic issues that lead to generational poverty. Both are important.

Heidi previously worked for BHA in the same role from 2014-2016, and returned to BHA in June of 2022. In the interim, she worked as a family case manager with the Indiana Dept. of Child Services (DCS) in Monroe County. Because a lot of her cases involved parents who struggled with mental health challenges, the children end up in foster care and often have their own mental health issues.

By 2022, she was carrying the heaviest case load in her office, working long hours and “my stress level was through the roof.”

During that time she also faced personal challenges, including the deaths of family members and a lifelong friend. She wasn’t looking for another job. But when Leon Gordon, BHA’s administrative director, reached out to her about coming back to BHA, she said yes. “Everything happens for a reason.”

“If for whatever reason you needed $50 and you didn’t have a dime to your name, you could call someone to help you out. But a lot of people that we see here don’t have that option.”

Heidi Flynn

Heidi didn’t begin her career in social services. Her bachelor’s degree from Indiana University is in education, though she ultimately realized that classroom teaching wasn’t what she wanted to do.

She worked retail for a while, then had a production job with Cook Medical. But social work appealed to her because she still wanted to help people, “just not in a classroom.”

Children are an important part of her life in many ways. She still keeps in touch with kids she helped while at DCS. And following the death of a close friend earlier this year, she’s helping parent her godson, who is almost 10 years old. He stays with her every other weekend.

Outside of work, Heidi, who lives in Bedford, runs a baking business called Sugar Hustle, making cupcakes, bread, cakes and other confections. “It was my pandemic hobby,” she said. The business has grown significantly since then, to her surprise.

There are two other things to know about Heidi. First, her tattoos all tell a story. The Chinese symbols on her left arm are “pray,” “love,” “death,” “life,” “salvation” and “eternity.”

“For me, it’s all about my connection with my Creator,” Heidi explained. On her right arm is an intricate tattoo in memory of her brother, who passed away in 2014. It includes the phrase “love you, later.” In her family “we never says goodbye, because we believe in an afterlife.”

She also has a tattoo of the word “Integrity” that’s encircled with three hearts, representing herself, her mother and her father, who passed away six months after her brother. And her most recent tattoo, a “Dodgers blue” rose on her right hand, is in memory of her lifelong friend David who died last year. He was a huge fan of the L.A. Dodgers baseball team.

The other thing to know about Heidi is that she has “a huge village.” Whenever she needs something for residents, she can tap that network. People have donated hundreds of dollars worth of school supplies, hygiene supplies and other items, she said. Last year, a friend donated high-quality backpacks, for example. “That’s where the most of the extra stuff around here comes from – my village,” Heidi said.

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.