Kecia’s Housing Story
Kecia’s Housing Story
This blog post is part of a series about housing. Many Californians face barriers to housing, such as the high cost of rent and the lack of physically accessible units. We are interviewing people with intellectual and developmental disabilities about their experiences, preferences, and aspirations around housing. Through this series, you can see both challenges specific to people with I/DD and broader challenges related to housing that people with I/DD experience, too.
If you want to share your story or get involved with our housing advocacy work, you can fill out this form: https://forms.disabilityrightsca.org/a/housing-blog
Kecia Weller is a disability advocate based in the Los Angeles area. She works as the self-advocate and community liaison at the Tarjan Center at UCLA. Kecia presents across the country on disability advocacy topics such as abuse prevention.
Q: Can you tell us about your experience with housing? What is your housing like?
A: My housing is very good because for the last 21 years I’ve been under a Section 8 Voucher that I got from the Culver City Housing Authority. I got it because I was working for Westside Regional Center at the time. I ported it immediately into Santa Monica Housing Authority in 2001. The Section 8 housing voucher only takes one third of my income to be rent.
Q: What is your home like? What makes it work for you?
A: I live independently. I have a one bedroom one bath. My living room area is pretty big and my kitchen is decent. I can do anything I need in my kitchen. I just got a brand-new oven that I can bake with. I already baked some cricket chocolate chip cookies which were quite delicious. I can’t even taste the crickets!
I live very close to public transportation. It’s wonderful. My house, I call it the abode of bliss because it’s quite blissful here.
Q: I have to ask, why did you put crickets in the cookies?
A: My best friend sent me a mix. The flour is made by cricket protein. And I couldn’t even tell there was crickets!
Q: Why is it important to live near public transportation?
A: I don’t have a car, so in order to get places I use public transportation. I have access to over 10 lines. It’s wonderful because I can go anywhere I want to go.
Q: What supports help you live independently?
A: My service provider helps me with medical appointments, and they help me with recreational stuff like going geocaching together.
Another thing that [my service provider] does is takes me grocery shopping too because I don’t have a car.
Q: What makes your apartment a home?
A: It’s very cozy. On my purple couch in my living room, I have a beautiful quilt that I like to spread out when I lay on my couch and listen to audiobooks. I also have my computer which is my workstation where I do all my Zoom calls, so I can telecommute from home for my job at the Tarjan Center and all my other work. In my bedroom is my bed, which I call my cocoon because I like to bring my blankets over my head. I have a weighted blanket on my bed too, which helps me feel safe.
Q: Is there anything you would change about your housing?
A: I’ve got three steps to get in my door. It would be very helpful if I had a ramp so when I walk with my cane, I wouldn’t have to go up and down the steps. I also need some grab bars around my bathroom and my shower so I don’t slip and fall.
Everything else is great, especially my courtyard!
Q: Was it hard to get on the Section 8 Voucher?
A: Absolutely. I was on the waiting list for 12 years. That’s a long time!
Q: What did you do before you got the voucher?
A: I lived with roommates, and believe me, I never want to live with roommates again!
The Section 8 housing voucher definitely empowered me to live on my own without roommates.
Q: What was your previous housing arrangement like?
A: Back then, my very first service provider had this great deal with a particular landlord, and they stuck all their clients into one apartment building. So it was segregated living.
I don’t like segregated living. In my apartment now, I’m an independent person with a disability living with everyone else. Most of my neighbors don’t have disabilities.
Q: What are some of the advantages of living in an integrated unit compared to your previous arrangement?
A: You get to experience all walks of life in an integrated community like where I’m living now. When you’re in a segregated community with mostly all people with disabilities, you don’t have any opportunity to engage with non-disabled folks.
Q: You have worked really hard to live independently. Are there policies that could help other people with disabilities have this opportunity?
A: One thing is that regional centers could do a better job for people with I/DD. At the Westside Regional Center, there is a foundation that buys apartments in integrated settings and connects a client to the housing with the same concept as Section 8 vouchers. I think all regional centers could do more to make sure housing is integrated.
It should be possible to do something about how long these waitlists are. I was on the waitlist for 12 years and the only reason I went to the top all of a sudden was because I was employed at Westside Regional Center.
I think there is a policy now that new buildings have to have a portion of their units low income. People with I/DD should be looking at the new buildings that are being developed to see if they can find a unit with the low income aspect. That way they could live in an integrated community like I do.