By the end of June 2014, more than two acres of vacant land in Chicago’s South Side Englewood neighborhood will be transformed into an affordable housing development with services for veterans and their families.
“As people of America, we have a profound debt of gratitude to the men and women who answer the call to duty and volunteer for our military, they are our heroes and always will be,” said Quinn.
Slated for the corner of South Halsted and West 60th Streets, the campus-style community will house 73 units of permanent supportive housing for veterans and their families at risk of homelessness.
Addressing the needs of veterans with children, the developer, Volunteers of America (VOA), touts the complex as one of the nation’s first large-scale supportive housing developments with gender-responsive programs for families.
“We have to understand many of our women veterans have children, and we have to accommodate their families,” Quinn said.
Residents will have access to job and employment readiness training, computer classes, a business resource center, a health and wellness center with mental health screening, individual and family counseling services, gender specific recovery and peer support groups, and case management support.
The project serves as the second phase of VOA Illinois’ Hope Manor Project. The first installation of the project, Hope Manor Apartments, opened in May 2012 in Chicago’s West Side East Garfield Park neighborhood and houses 50 units for male veterans.
“I looked at Hope Manor as an opportunity to be well-rounded and to help me adjust to civilian live,” said Eugene Broyls, 43, a resident at the Hope Manor Apartments since August.
Broyls served in the U.S. Marine Corps for four years during the Gulf War. Upon returning home in 1990, he said he experienced severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) resulting in nightmares and an inability to talk to others.
“I was in a bad way,” he said. “Hope Manor really helped me a lot.”
Broyls said through the help of weekly check-ups from a case manager and job training practices, he’s set to soon get a computer science degree from Harold Washington College.
Residents are also provided access to VOA Illinois’ True North Project, a multi-faceted veteran program designed for individuals who are struggling, in crisis or at risk for serious instability in their lives.
“They provided me with the whole circus to get me back on track,” Broyls said. “The program helped me become a valuable member of society. I’ve experienced things normal civilians don’t encounter and I had a really hard time readjusting to society.”
Hope Manor II is being funded by a $190,000 Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) grant, a $1.9 million federal HOME Investment Partnerships Program loan and a $3 million tax-increment financing grant from the city of Chicago.
Approximately 15 percent of all veterans in Illinois, roughly 1,100 people, were homeless on any given day in 2012, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness.
According to the VOA, the rate of homelessness among veterans with families has increased by more than 5 percent every year for the past four years. Also, 6 percent to 8 percent of all homeless veterans are women, and female veterans are two times more likely to become homeless than their male counterparts.
“When I became alderman in 2007, I was very distraught about veterans,” said Ald. Thompson. “I think they get the shorthand of the stick, they go off and they fight for us, some lose their lives, some don’t come home to their families and when they come home they have housing issues and cant find jobs, there’s something wrong with that picture.”
Thompson said the project would also help the Englewood neighborhood, which has been racked by poverty and crime.
“This ceremony is the beginning of the repair,” she said.
To qualify for residency, veterans must be at or below 60 percent of the area median income, or $35,340 for a two-person household.
Gov. Quinn said the project is “vitally needed” in our state and our country.
“(Veterans) go far away to dangerous places ... So we have this duty on the home-front to take care of our veterans when it comes to jobs, education and housing,” the governer noted.
“We’re living up to Abraham Lincoln’s words, and taking care of those who bear the battle.”
Here’s more from Quinn: