Allison Keller is not only an affordable housing advocate. She is also a Rapid Rehousing and Transitional Housing Case Manager at Connections for the Homeless. In this role, she matches people to housing programs that provide one to two years of rental assistance and connects them to resources like school systems and public benefits programs to help them access jobs, food, and services. These programs help participants pay rents that they can afford and supplement the remaining housing costs for up to two years, while helping them to increase their income until they’re able to pay rent independently.
Originally from Miami, Florida, Allison went to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, and majored in molecular and cellular biology. While in college, she volunteered at an immigration advocacy program where she led an afterschool program focused on connecting high school students to mental health resources.
In 2019, she moved to Chicago when she got an AmeriCorps VISTA position at Legal Aid Chicago. Here, she worked with partner organizations to help HIV patients who were victims of housing and other forms of discrimination to receive legal help and other resources. During the pandemic, Allison helped run Legal Aid’s public benefits hotline to assist people with enrolling into SNAP and other public benefits programs, and she worked to improve the referral system. With an interest in direct service, Allison joined Connections in her current role in November 2020.
Allison just completed a master’s program in public health with a concentration on social epidemiology at DePaul University and wishes to focus her future work on the health disparities that come from housing insecurity and homelessness. In past and current positions, she has advocated for survivors of sexual assault, which she cares deeply about, and plans to continue this kind of work in the future. She also worked on quilt panels for the Monument Quilt, which helps survivors of sexual assault to tell their stories, as well as the AIDS Memorial Quilt, which honors people who have passed away from AIDS. She finds that these quilts are meaningful ways to memorialize stories about people who have struggled and serve as reminders of how critical it is to advocate for policy changes and visibility for people with these kinds of stories.
In her current role, Allison says that, because her clients can’t find housing they can really afford, her job is to help “plug every leak.” Because the amount of affordable housing in Evanston is so limited, she says that there is an urgent need for people in these kinds of roles.
This urgency is one of the reasons Allison traveled to Springfield to lobby with Joining Forces this spring—to fight to prevent homelessness in Illinois and provide more resources for people in her position to better help people with housing struggles. After pandemic-related housing protections expired and influenced various backlashes, Allison believes that lobbying for Senate Bill 1476 [Advocacy Day blog post] and an increase to the state housing budget was. At first, she found talking to legislators intimidating, but when she realized that Connections staff actually have valuable insights about housing issues and homelessness, she became more confident about sharing her experiences to garner support for the bills we advocated for. She plans to join Connections’ Staff Advocacy Team to help with advocacy efforts moving forward!