“I grew up on the Southeast Side in the South Shore community. I moved to the North Side where I was shot 38 years ago and paralyzed from the waist down. I’ve been in a wheelchair since that time. And basically from 1988 to January 2020, I did not have wheelchair-accessible housing.”

“Right after I was paralyzed, I would move from place to place. I was technically homeless already. The only housing I could afford during that time was a hotel. They had an elevator, but neither the bathroom nor showers were accessible.”

“I am on the affordable housing list, but my number comes up in approximately 22 years. Even then it most likely wouldn’t be fully wheelchair accessible.”

“People in wheelchairs face a lot of discrimination both in the housing and job markets.”

“It wasn’t until I removed the fact that I was president of the disabilities club in college from my resume that I would hear back from employers.”

“I was lucky to have my job as a social worker, but when I lost my place – also not accessible – due to my family member’s inability to pay rent, I would sleep in my car, or sneak back into the office to sleep. I worked for a social services organization, so they understood. But not everyone has those types of opportunities.”

“I would scour the internet for years, always looking for places.”

“I would be denied housing when I went to look at places because of my wheelchair. There are a lot of unfortunate stereotypes about people in wheelchairs, so people take the attitude that, ‘We don’t need people like that in our building.’”

“Some places say they have ‘accessible’ housing, but ‘accessibility’ means very different things for someone in a wheelchair versus someone using a cane. I’m pretty good in my wheelchair. I know how to hop up a curb, but one building I went to check out had a front and back step so high I couldn’t even get into the building to see the apartment. So, I had to keep looking.”

“Then you have an affordability issue. If you’re wealthy, you can afford an accessible building. But if you’re lucky enough to find a job in spite of job discrimination, the supply of housing which is affordable and wheelchair accessible is non-existent.”

“I looked into local shelters. The YMCA, for example, only has three housing options on the North Side, and they’re almost always full. It took me more than three months to get in. But that’s not a housing solution.”

“You need stable housing to get yourself together, hold a job and contribute to society. Without proper housing people end up using more resources.”

“I think the two things that would help people with disabilities would be housing and more money for social services. We could do a hell of a lot with that.”

“There’s just not enough money to go around, so social services allocated funding to the largest population with needs. We’re proportionately a smaller population, so we don’t get a seat at the table.”

“We face huge barriers in terms of lack of supply, funding and discrimination when trying to find housing. Which is why we have such a high rate of people with disabilities who are homeless and you’ll see, like, most of them in wheelchairs.”

“I am a university graduate. Employed. I have connections in the community. And it still took me almost four decades to find an accessible home.”

“As the funding is currently spent and allocated, people in wheelchairs are effectively kept homeless and without proper housing. This creates a huge barrier in their ability to contribute to society and costs the state and taxpayers more on the back end as the need for money increases to provide for people that may have been self-sufficient had the money been invested in the right place.”

“By allocating more funding to take care of meeting essential needs like job training and placement and housing on the front end, then people in wheelchairs will be given a better opportunity to thrive and give back to society.”

“We need to invest in people.”

Marius Powell
Social worker, Curt’s Cafe
Chicago, Illinois