Travon Bonner is one of many people who advocated for more affordable housing in Springfield with Joining Forces this spring. She is the Youth Program Supervisor at Connections for the Homeless, which involves providing support and resources to the full team of people who serve 60 transition-aged youth at Connections. Travon helps with in-house clerical tasks, manages one of Connections’ homes that is staffed 24/7, works on the program’s budgeting, and ensures that programming that’s offered suits the needs of the program’s participants.
Travon was born and raised in Evanston and has lived near the lake and in the 5th Ward over time. Even though the area has changed tremendously over the past 52 years, Travon has enjoyed the sense of community and how family-friendly Evanston is.
When Travon started working at Connections, her role was as an Aftercare Case Manager in the Youth Department before she was promoted to her current role. This position involved supporting participants who had graduated from Our House, Connections’ residential program for youth, and moved to different, independent sites in the area. Our House is a home for participants that is staffed 24/7 and equipped with 6 full-time beds and 2 emergency beds. In this program, youth receive full case management that includes housing, educational goal-setting, connections to community resources (Curt’s Café, the Moran Center, Youth Job Center, etc.), and in-house therapy, as well as activities from gardening to advocacy through the Youth Action Board.
Participants who have graduated from this program receive help with finding medical and dental care; applying for medical, financial, and housing assistance; obtaining important documents like birth certificates and social security cards; as well as with grocery shopping, budgeting, goal planning, education, workforce development, and many other services.
Before joining Connections, Travon worked in customer service and gained a great foundation for the work she does today, working in early childhood services and social services at The Harbour. However, going to Springfield was the first time that Travon had experienced what it is like to advocate for bigger systems change.
She decided to join the Springfield trip because she saw it as an opportunity to take part in changes to state legislation for affordable housing, speaking up for those who need this kind of help from the state, and to connect with other Connections staff, clients, and advocates. Travon said that legislators needed to hear from people who are on “the frontline” of homelessness, staff who work with unhoused people and people who have experienced homelessness because there’s power in numbers and testimonies. Travon’s favorite parts of the trip were talking to legislators, exploring the capitol, learning more about affordable housing advocacy based on the bills we were lobbying for, and hearing about what other Connections staff do and observe in their respective roles. After experiencing this, Travon is excited to make this trip and lobby in Springfield again.
Travon’s interest in this field of work and advocacy stems from her love of people and her sense of fellowship. Working at Connections has made her aware of the many obstacles that people have to face on a regular basis, so advocating for affordable housing and working in homelessness services “is a duty to our fellow sisters and brothers.” Travon believes that people have a social responsibility to one another that involves taking care of the hungry and unhoused.