Officials break ground on veteran housing complex

2013-04-25T19:00:00Z 2013-05-04T21:25:07Z Officials break ground on veteran housing complexThe Associated Press The Associated Press
April 25, 2013 7:00 pm  • 

CHICAGO | A housing complex geared toward helping veterans at risk of becoming homeless will be built on Chicago's South Side next year, officials announced Thursday.

The Hope Manor II apartments, funded by federal, state and city grant money, will have 73 units, ranging from studio to four-bedroom apartments on the corner of South Halsted and West 60th streets. Residents will have access to services such as job training, family counseling and mental health screening. The project expands on a concept started last summer, when the original Hope Manor opened on Chicago's West Side.

The idea is to help veterans, who experience a higher rate of homelessness than other groups, stay off the streets and get their lives on track. Rates of homelessness are higher among veterans than many other groups. More than 1,100 veterans were homeless on a given day in 2012 in Illinois, or roughly 15 percent of all veterans, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

The concept rings true to Steven Brooks, a U.S. Marine veteran of Desert Storm in Iraq who moved into Hope Manor last year. After he returned from war, he didn't know how to cope and said he turned to alcohol. It wasn't long before he wore out his welcome with friends and family.

Brooks was essentially homeless when he moved in and is now gearing up for a master welding course.

"It turned my life around," the 44-year-old said of Hope Manor. "I never thought I'd be going back to school."

The new facility is expected to be completed in 2014 and is paid for by a $1.9 million federal loan, $3 million tax-increment financing grant from Chicago and $190,000 grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

Officials with Volunteers of America, which developed the idea, said that they want the complex to also focus on veterans who are younger, female or have families.

"The sacrifices our veterans make matter," said Nancy Hughes Moyer, the president and CEO of Volunteers of America of Illinois.

To qualify for residence at the complex, residents must be at or below 60 percent of the area median income, or about $35,340 for a two-person household.

City and state officials, including Gov. Pat Quinn, broke ground on the complex Thursday. The site is currently empty lots off a busy street in the city's Englewood neighborhood.

Volunteers of America and the Chicago Housing Authority said the location of the project was key.

Charles Woodyard, CEO of the Chicago Housing Authority, envisions it as a "catalyst" for Englewood, which has some of the city's highest poverty and crime rates. Backers of the project envision it spurring other development in the area, which is near Kennedy-King College, a City College of Chicago campus.

"It's a neighborhood that deserved a turnaround," he said.

The campus will also feature a business center, a 21,000-square foot park and playground.

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