I’m a born and bred Hoosier, from the Unionville area. Now I work for the Goodwill here in Bloomington, which I enjoy, because you interact with the community, you’re doing something that helps people. I miss it—I’m currently unemployed because of the Covid-19 situation. That’s been hard, as someone with depression. Even with medication, you still have moments where you get down, and one of the ways to prevent that is being active.
Hoosier Action was a happy accident for me. I do some writing on social media, on Facebook. It’s kind of my thing. I write about issues that are important to me, like health insurance, people living in poverty, homelessness. I was looking for an outlet, but I didn’t know how to connect with that kind of organization.
I wrote a post about an awful experience I had at a Bloomington hospital. I had a bad kidney stone, so I took an ambulance even though I don’t have health insurance. I waited forever. Then it was very hurried, very “Let’s get her out of here, she doesn’t have insurance.” They said, well, Medicaid sends you home with some prescriptions. They put me on fentanyl for the pain. I don’t own a vehicle and didn’t have money for a bus. I live on the east side, the hospital is on the west side, so I walked home under the influence of fentanyl. I was treated with such a lack of compassion. It was disheartening.
One of my friends happens to be a Hoosier Action member. She saw that post and tagged Eva, a Hoosier Action leader. Eva set up a meeting with me because she was interested in my story. We met for coffee, we had a good conversation, and it snowballed from there. Hoosier Action was a perfect fit for me, and I didn’t even know I was looking for them. I think a lot of people are looking for an outlet so their voice is heard. They just haven't found it.
Right now, one of our big issues is that the state attorney general wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Thousands and thousands of Hoosiers would lose their health insurance. Before the pandemic, we were doing things more directly, going to the Statehouse, talking to legislators. Obviously now that’s not possible, so we do a lot online. We contacted the AG on his Facebook page, we shared videos talking about our personal health stories.
One of the things I’ve learned from working with Hoosier Action is how many issues there really are across the state. It’s not just poverty or the lack of health care. For example, in Martinsville, there’s a problem with pollution, people there have gotten sick. I didn’t realize how much Hoosiers are dealing with.
We want to be honest about what we’re dealing with in this state. That’s the only way anything’s going to change. We have to be straightforward about the things we’re facing, especially in this pandemic, and Hoosier Action encourages that kind of authenticity and honesty. If you’re toughing it out, or saying, “Oh, everything’s okay,” that’s not going to create change. Complete honesty about what you’re dealing with financially, emotionally, medically—that’s what generates change. Lawmakers won’t understand how important issues are if you don’t emphasize how they affect people. And if it’s just one person complaining about their situation, they won’t be heard. It takes coming together, organizing, putting pressure on legislators.
I love the local feel here. People know one another. It’s not overwhelming or noisy, but we’ve got access to culture and arts. If I could change something about Bloomington, though, it would be affordable housing. A lot of local people can’t afford the high rents that many of the students can. I wish the minimum wage was higher, so people could have a chance to thrive instead of just exist here. You know what’s sad? I make more in unemployment than I did when I was employed. To me, that says a lot about how much we need to raise the minimum wage in our state.
Before I got involved with Hoosier Action, I knew I wanted to change things, but I didn’t know what steps needed to be taken. They gave me those steps, and it’s not just writing letters or making phone calls, although we do that too—it’s meeting with legislators, being visible at the Statehouse, getting issues out there so the public knows what we’re fighting for.
And I’m an introvert. I was that kid who, if I had to give a speech in front of the class, I felt sick. This is the last thing I could’ve seen myself doing a year or two ago. Now, I’ve opened a meeting at Hoosier Action. I’ve been at news conferences. I’ve spoken on several Zoom meetings and told my story out loud. Hoosier Action has pushed me, in a good way. They’re like, Go, Michelle, go! They encourage you and build you up, so you feel comfortable doing things you’ve never done before. You go from feeling completely powerless, especially with depression, to feeling strong. You start to feel like a different person, like somebody who’s capable of more.