With a slow, steady swagger, Kent Johnson smiles and holds his head high as he leads his friend Enrique north on Lincoln Street toward the Shalom Community Center. Both of them radiate hope as they walk, despite their experiences living below the poverty line.
Johnson lost his job, his apartment and all his possessions after moving to Bloomington from Chicago to help his daughter. He ended up homeless, eating at Shalom and sleeping on the streets.
But on this golden spring morning, Johnson shows no signs of struggle. He is happy to help a friend. Enrique has been working 12-hour days for $50 under-the-table.
"It's hard to imagine things like that happening in Bloomington," Johnson says with a sigh. "But they do."
According to the 2006 Census, 37.3 % of Bloomington residents 18 and older live below the poverty line.
VIDEO: Shalom Means "Welcome"
LINKS: "The Other Bloomington"
Serving in a homophobic military is an experience Mark Brostoff can relate to. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1982 to 2002, before and after Congress implemented "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the military policy that allows homosexuals to serve but honorably discharges them if their orientation is discovered.
America made progress toward removing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" on May 21 when three judges from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated a lawsuit that could bring an end to the 15-year-old policy.
The court said military officials must prove that having a gay person in the unit hurts morale and that discharge is the only way to improve morale, according to a May 22 Associated Press story.
Brostoff, the associate director of the Kelley Undergrad Career Services, said he wants the policy changed, but he has concerns.
"I do not want (to) risk moving backwards in the achievements the gay community has gained," he said.
Sitting on a stool behind a 20-inch Macintosh monitor, Steve Volan towers above most customers who approach the checkout counter with movie in hand. A navy-blue hat rests lightly on top of his ruffled brown hair. Clenched in his right hand is a Subway foot-long sub.
The Cinemat's laid-back atmosphere creates a comfortable smile on the lips of customers and employees alike. Soft sounds of movie dialogue resonate from the TV hanging in the corner, and a serene silence floats through the air, except when disrupted by Volan's bellowing laugh.
"What really got me involved in politics?" Cinemat owner and City Councilman "Tall Steve" Volan asks with a sly smirk and squinting eyes. "It was the cuckoos. You've heard 'em, 'Cuckoo! Cuckoo!'"