Robert Todd is not only an affordable housing advocate who lobbied with Joining Forces in Springfield, he is also a Connections client with lived experience. As someone who has experienced homelessness and relied on services to provide shelter for him and help him look for housing he can afford, the statewide bills that we advocated for were especially important to Robert and people with similar experiences.
Originally from Des Moines, Iowa, Robert has lived in Evanston for 3 years. In Iowa, he worked in IT for 21 years. Eventually, the company that Robert worked for relocated to Kentucky and laid everyone off. This was roughly around the time that Robert’s dad passed away. One thing led to another, and Robert and his fiancé Elizabeth (now his wife) became homeless.
After moving to Evanston, Robert and Elizabeth spent 130 days sleeping by the river. They were referred to Hilda’s Place by a Connections outreach worker. They eventually learned about an opportunity for shelter at the Margarita Inn in 2020 and moved in. They’ve been living there ever since Connections started using it as a shelter, which Robert says saved his and Elizabeth’s lives.
Now, Robert and Elizabeth are waiting to be matched for an apartment where they can use their Housing Choice vouchers, which help to pay rent and are often referred to as "Section 8" vouchers. On top of just finding affordable housing in Evanston, Robert says that the most difficult part of this process is finding landlords who take such vouchers. Even though it’s illegal to discriminate against people with Section 8, many landlords can find other ways of rejecting applicants with them without facing any consequences.
The Joining Forces Lobby Day trip to Springfield in April was the first time that Robert had done any kind of advocacy work. He said that going was a good experience because he enjoyed getting to see Illinois’ Old State Capitol, meeting new people, and the comradery that developed among the group. He also appreciated seeing everyone work together to try improving affordable housing across the state. Robert said that if he had the opportunity, he’d like to take that trip again, but with more pit stops on the way to and from Springfield!