Host Site FAQs: Housing Action Illinois VISTA Network

What criteria do you use when selecting host sites?
My organization currently hosts a VISTA member; do we need to complete the 2018-2019 VISTA Project Host Site Application?
Is there a limit for how many years an organization can serve as a host site with the Housing Action VISTA Network?
What kind of VISTA projects does Housing Action Illinois prioritize?
What is the timeline for the application process?
How many VISTA members can I apply for?
How does my organization benefit from participating as a VISTA Project Host Site? How can I best utilize my VISTA for the benefit of our organization?
Will I get guidance throughout the year about the VISTA program?
What costs do Housing Action VISTA Host Sites need to cover?
What benefits does the VISTA program offer its members?
Can our VISTA get a part-time job?
What activities are inappropriate for a VISTA to do?

If you have additional questions, please don’t hesitate to contact our VISTA Leaders at (312­) 939-6074 ext. 107 or vista@housingactionil.org. Wondering what other host sites’ experiences have been like? Check out our host site testimonials.

What criteria do you use when selecting host sites?

  • VISTA projects should follow the guidelines of the AmeriCorps VISTA program: they should be sustainable projects related to creating long-term solutions to ending poverty, rather than projects providing short-term services. Projects in our network focus specifically on ending poverty through affordable housing and economic empowerment. See these guidelines for more information.
  • Host sites should have the capacity to supervise, mentor, and support a VISTA throughout the entire year.
  • We prioritize projects that will attract a strong pool of VISTA candidates.
  • We consider geographic diversity; we aim for a minimum of four host sites outside of the Chicago Metropolitan/Six-Collar County Region.
  • All current Housing Action Illinois member organizations are invited to apply. Preference will be given to organizations that have been members of Housing Action Illinois for more than one year.
  • We also give preference to current Housing Action Illinois VISTA host sites who are up to date with their membership dues and have been strong, responsive VISTA partners in the past.

Learn more about becoming a member of Housing Action Illinois »

My organization currently hosts a VISTA member; do we need to complete the 2018-2019 VISTA Project Host Site Application?

Yes. All organizations, whether applying for the first time or renewing, must complete the 2018‐ 2019 Project Host Site Application. Current sites with a VISTA for less than three years have preference if they are in good standing. New applications are necessary to ensure that VISTA placements focus on updated VISTA programming priorities and focus areas of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS).

 

Is there a limit for how many years an organization can serve as a host site with the Housing Action VISTA Network?

If your organization has been a Housing Action host site for more than three years and your VISTAs have worked on the same project, you must submit an application for a new VISTA project. VISTA projects should last no longer than three years, after which it is the responsibility of the community organization to maintain the infrastructure and programs developed with the help of the VISTA. For example, if your VISTAs have worked on volunteer recruitment and management for the same program for three years, you must submit an application that proposes a new project.

What kind of VISTA projects does the Housing Action Illinois prioritize?

Housing Action VISTA projects focus on building the capacity of organizations to improve economic opportunity through better access to affordable housing and supportive services, financial literacy, asset-based community development and community empowerment. VISTAs can engage in capacity-building activities such as developing or expanding programs, fundraising, marketing and communications, outreach, volunteer recruitment/management, community organizing, and research.

What is the timeline for the application process?

January 26, 2018: Deadline for host site applications
February 19, 2018: Award announcements
March 5, 2018: Executed Agreements due (MOUs, Payment, Final VISTA Assignment Description, Performance Measures Survey)
March – May 2018: Recruitment of VISTA members
Summer 2018: VISTAs arrive on site. Exact dates TBD.

How many VISTA members can I apply for?

You may apply for more than one VISTA member, but only one project can be approved, as organizations can only host one VISTA member at a time.

How does my organization benefit from participating as a VISTA Project Host Site? How can I best utilize my VISTA for the benefit of our organization?

Your organization will receive the opportunity to recruit a full‐time AmeriCorps VISTA member(s) to work with you to build capacity in your organization. A VISTA member can enable your organization to address needs within your community that would otherwise not be accomplished due to lack of time, resources, energy or experienced staff. Once your organization’s needs have been identified, you can structure the VISTA’s Assignment Description to best build the capacity of a program or initiative that will continue to address the need after the VISTA project has ended.

Will I get guidance throughout the year about the VISTA program?

Yes! Housing Action Illinois and CNCS provide the following:

  • Pre‐Service Orientation (PSO) for VISTA members (costs are covered by CNCS).
  • In‐Service Training (IST) for the VISTA member(s) during their term of service.
  • Oversight and coordination of the VISTA Network through the Housing Action VISTA project staff and VISTA Leaders.
  • Site visits.
  • Assistance with recruitment and selection of VISTA members.
  • Facilitate professional development opportunities.

What costs do Housing Action VISTA Host Sites need to cover?

  • Host sites must reimburse VISTAs for all project-related travel. Host sites in the Chicago metro region are also required to reimburse VISTAs for monthly Ventra/Metra passes.
  • Funds for professional development/trainings throughout the year.
  • In‐kind office requirements: office space, desk, computer, phone line, email, etc.
  • There are other in‐kind donations such as housing or housing assistance, opportunities for professional development, etc. These items are not required, but are encouraged as they drastically increase the number and quality of VISTA applicants.
  • Project Participation Fee to Housing Action Illinois, estimated to be $4,000* per VISTA member position during the 2018‐2019 fiscal year. The Project Participation Fee covers match requirements to CNCS and helps offset administrative expenses for the project.

What benefits does the VISTA program offer its members?

AmeriCorps VISTA members receive a living allowance from the federal government of approximately $10,000/year, as well as the choice between a post-service education award of $5,900 or a cash stipend of $1,800 upon completion of a year of service.

Can our VISTA get a part-time job?

Yes, but all outside employment must be approved by CNCS and must not conflict with VISTA assignment.

What activities are inappropriate for a VISTA to do?
An AmeriCorps VISTA member cannot:

  • Supervise employees of the host site.
  • Provide direct service or case management to individual clients or community members.
  • Partake in political advocacy, religious instruction, voter registration, union organizing, or lobbying while serving or identifying as a VISTA member.
  • Receive direct cash assistance from host organization to supplement their stipend.
  • Enroll in credit‐bearing courses during their term without approval from CNCS.
  • Displace the work, or what should be the work, of paid employees of the host organization, particularly tasks typically reserved for administrative and/or clerical positions. AmeriCorps VISTA members are to engage in project‐based work. Your VISTA member is not an administrative assistant or intern.

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