Policy analyst tackles the lack of affordable, accessible housing

Housing Services
Housing Policy Analyst Terence Simms.
As Access Living’s new Housing Policy Analyst, Terence Simms is hoping to create and implement a housing policy agenda for advocacy that covers Chicago, Cook County and Springfield. Using his previous experience with policy and advocacy, Terence wants to increase funding for affordable and accessible housing for people with disabilities, and to develop new relationships with people who know about Access Living well as to those who do not.

Terence has been working on housing issues for much of his career. Before he began at Access Living in August 2012, he earned a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh. In Pittsburgh, he completed a fellowship with the Mayor’s office which addressed housing concerns around city planning, gentrification, tax incentives and businesses. After Pittsburgh, Terence came to Chicago, where he worked at Cook County Juvenile Center Department while also attending graduate school at the University of Chicago, where he received his Masters of Social Work. While at the Juvenile Justice Center, Terence worked on policy advocacy as well as research, lobbying, and grant writing.

A friend referred him to Access Living when the housing position became available. Access Living appealed to Terence for two reasons. The first was the advocacy aspect of working with people with disabilities, and the second was the housing piece. He had always been interested in working on problems regarding segregation and isolation in housing, and was interested in expanding this interest into advocacy for people with disabilities.
With Access Living, Terence plans to reach out to policy makers around Illinois, and give them the tools to answer the question, “why should this matter to me?” To address this, among other strategies, Terence hopes to partner with State Representative Esther Golar, the chair of the Illinois Special Elections Housing Committee. The committee’s goal is to find new housing outside of what is already federally mandated.

Unfortunately there are many obstacles in the struggle for housing justice. According to Terence, there is never going to be enough funding and, because of accessibility and affordability, there are never enough units available. Terence has to maneuver around these obstacles in order to tackle housing challenges as they pertain to people with disabilities.

On a day to day at Access Living, Terence meets with Access Living staff, and with public entities such as the Illinois Department of Housing Authority and the Chicago Housing Authority. Soon, he will visit Springfield for meetings with legislators and allies. Terence hopes to create Access Living’s own legislation that follows a model created in Massachusetts. Mass Housing has created a central registry for people with disabilities that provided a mandate that requires providers to participate. Access Living is looking to implement similar policy in Chicago.

In transitioning to Access Living, Terence’s mind frame had to change. His ideology of advocacy had to change. According to Terence, it was about “making that paradigm shift.” He said it was about “getting my head around who I am as an advocate for people with disabilities (and) . . .wrapping my head around all of this housing stuff.” Though housing options for people with disabilities in Chicago and Illinois are limited, Terrence is hopeful and has faith that it will get better. After all, Terence says “Failure is not measured by how many times you fall down but by how many times you don’t get back up.” From everyone at Access Living, “Welcome aboard Terence.”

Terence Simms
Housing Policy Analyst