One might think that to become a real life superhero, they must work in a large city and wear a cape. This is not the case with Brooke Spellman, Principal Associate at Abt Associates, Inc. Abt Associates, Inc. is a company that works as “an engine for social impact.” As an associate, Spellman’s job can be broken up into three parts, all socially conscious, almost all done from the comfort of her home in Peoria, Illinois.
The first part of Spellman’s work is to work with the federal government and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to come up with strategies to combat homelessness with policy. With the rise of the novel Coronavirus, Spellman has also worked to address the vulnerabilities of the homeless population and how to meet their needs in this time.
Spellman also works to provide technical assistance to local governments on behalf of the federal government. Currently she is focusing on Los Angeles and working to get more people housed at a quicker rate. She works to align policy with housing authorities and to explain how to use provided data. This part of her job is perhaps the most active as prior to the pandemic, she traveled once or twice a month to L.A. The final aspect of her job is based in research. Spellman says that their goal is to constantly be immersed in new knowledge and to keep identifying new research questions. She and colleagues are always thinking about experiences and data and how to use them to further their cause.
In terms of living situation, Spellman would not want to move anywhere else. Initially working for the City of Chicago but moving here based on a job opportunity for her husband, Spellman joked that Peoria was supposed to be a temporary move. But the beautiful, affordable homes, deep sense of community, and ease of life itself proved to be too alluring. Spellman and her husband have been in Peoria for over nineteen years.
What makes Peoria a good place to live as a remote worker, for Spellman, would be the ease of everything. As a remote worker Spellman is able to enjoy the amenities of the city without sacrificing time. Commute times are nowhere near what they are in larger metropolitan areas and Spellman has found it easier to balance work and everyday life.
What gave Peoria the final push to become home for Spellman was when she and her husband began having children. They wanted to be settled down in one place before they started school. Peoria, she says, has been a great place to raise children. Harkened as the quintessential American city, Peoria serves as a microcosm of what is going on in America. This includes both positive and negative parts of life. And yet, this is what is especially appealing to Spellman. She can appreciate the holistic understanding of life Peoria is able to offer while actually being able to impact change.
Ultimately, Peoria has become home to Spellman and her family. New developments in the area, she says, have always matched her and her husband’s interests. This includes the First Friday Art gatherings and the redevelopment of the warehouse district. Now, Spellman looks forward to the official opening of Black Band Distillery on Adams Street.
Beyond a fulfilling social life, Peoria offers a real sense of community. Spellman says once their children started school, it offered them deeper friendships with other parents. Being a remote worker has allowed Spellman to at once keep a job that allows her to be a real life superhero but also maintain a community in a mid-sized city where such jobs don’t normally exist.