People of housing Security:
Eviction Prevention Project coordinator helps those facing adversity.
Tonda Radewan is a mom, novice gardener, and an advocate for those facing adversity. She is rooted deeply in the Bloomington community through her involvement and support of local music and the creative arts and her prior volunteer work with Girl Scouts of Central Indiana, and WFHB Community Radio.
Her connections to housing security work also run deep. Tonda participated in the Housing Insecurity Working Group, which led to the creation of Heading Home. She was a board member of South Central Indiana Housing Opportunities (SCIHO) and recently was appointed to the Bloomington Human Rights Commission.
Tonda currently serves as the coordinator for the Eviction Prevention Project (EPP), formerly known as the Housing and Eviction Prevention Project. Since the project began in June 2019, free legal advice, mediation services, and social service referrals have been offered to tenants and landlords at every initial eviction hearing in Monroe County. She informed us that currently there are three eviction hearings scheduled every 15 minutes when eviction court is in session.
Tonda is the only service provider for the Eviction Prevention Project who does not belong to an existing organization. Due to this, she has realized how much she misses the support and connection with colleagues around a shared vision. Tonda informed us that it’s very common to get burnt out in the work of social services. Staff turnover happens quite often in the field, causing challenges for clients who experience gaps in service and a void of institutional knowledge. Tonda believes our community should look into ways to increase retention for staff so they feel valued and supported.
While Tonda’s day-to-day schedule varies depending on which job she is working, being empathetic and having an “open-ear” are two things that she incorporates daily. When not coordinating services during court or attending community meetings, Tonda runs the EPP Intake phone line, which receives a plethora of calls per day. The call line serves as a resource to help people navigate their options when facing an eviction and provides information on ways to seek assistance.
During difficult days, the ringing of the intake line is often what continues to motivate Tonda. On the other hand, many times when she answers the phone, she feels overwhelmed by the weight of responsibility knowing she may be the caller’s only option for support at that time.
Tonda bridges vulnerable residents to services that can help to provide stability. This is sometimes done while talking to clients on the intake phone line, over Zoom after their eviction court hearings or at outreach events with other social service organizations.
“I didn’t feel like I could leave, Because who else would do it?”
Through her work with people facing eviction, Tonda has recognized that there are gaps in the current systems of support. While there are many resources available for people actively experiencing homelessness, she said there are limited resources for those soon to be evicted. Most people pro-actively seeking resources don’t yet qualify for services and many have lost their prior connections with case managers, especially in the areas of mental health and substance use, which leaves them unsure on how to navigate housing and other social services. Our community’s lack of social service navigators has put a lot of pressure on Tonda’s shoulders. In our interview she stated “I didn’t feel like I could leave, because who else would do it?”.
The clients Tonda works with through District 10 Pro Bono’s Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Clinic have to make unthinkable decisions at times. Many are in collections for using credit cards for hospital bills, prescriptions and other basic necessities. She believes that no person should have to go into debt over essential needs and there should be stricter regulations on credit card interest rates, payday loans and other predatory lending practices.
Tonda’s dedication to reducing information asymmetries has strengthened our community in more ways that this article can describe.
Whether she is observing hearings to improve processes, helping people navigate available social services, advocating for accessible legal information and access to justice, or volunteering in the community, there is no doubt Tonda is making an impact in the lives of those facing adversity.
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.