After earning her bachelor’s degree in Political Science from University of Illinois, Krista Weller wanted to continue the work she had started as an intern for Illinois Network of Centers for Independent Living (INCIL). INCIL is a statewide non-profit that uses a community-based system to help people with disabilities find autonomy and independence in work, school and housing. When the INCIL was looking for an AmeriCorps member to serve in the VISTA program, Krista knew it was an opportunity to learn while supporting her community through an organization that she loved.
During her year of service at INCIL, Krista focused on communications and education. She spoke directly with landlords, housing developers, and Illinois legislators about the importance of rectifying long-standing housing inequalities. Although COVID-19 limited Krista’s ability to advocate for accessible housing in person, she was still able to meet virtually. “By educating these officials, we are hoping to get access to more accessible and affordable housing for those with disabilities,” Krista explains.
It wasn’t always easy. It can be “hard to make a case that we need more affordable and accessible housing when those in control of this housing do not see or want to accept the fact that there are inequalities.” Because of this, Krista led a project to research and break down all the housing inequalities in Illinois. Her work is regularly referenced by INCIL to show the how great the need for accessible housing is throughout the state.
Krista knows that true change will take more than a year. “Making big changes take time, and I feel that if I had more time, my impact would be bigger. I feel that I have educated some people on the affordable housing problems in Illinois, but I do not think I have educated enough people yet to make the change that needs to be made.”
While Krista’s term of service may have come to an end, she still hopes to continue to work with INCIL or an organization with similar goals. “My term has impacted myself personally. It has opened my eyes to the problems and needs of my community and makes me want to continue striving to make a change.”