The Englewood Community on the South Side of Chicago is buzzing over the new Hope Manor Two Project, scheduled to be completed in June 2014.
The goal of the project is to help homeless veterans find stable and permanent living conditions. Much of the excitement now comes from one-time soldiers who now feel all their hard work and sacrifice is finally starting to be recognized and appreciated.
Tim Walker, 45, a recruiter-developer at Volunteers of America, says organization secured funding from a flood of sources to make sure the project had a solid opening.
“The project in total, cost $23 million, with us having to secure funds from different sources,” according to Walker, The project also received a mixed income tax credit equity worth $16 million as well; along with home funds of $5 million, and $800,000 from the IDA and $500,000 from the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
Walker added that the project can begin prior to the entire $23 million being available.
“We do not have the exact amount right then and there,” Walker said. “People qualify for the subsidized loans. JP Morgan Chase, the bank that we are using, pays the credit up front. It is similar to Section 8 housing. There are vouchers for all 73 units in the new facility,” Walker added.
Gov. Pat Quinn joined local leaders and volunteers in breaking ground on a new housing development in Chicago for female veterans with children, the second of its kind dedicated to serving homeless veterans in the city.
The complex will be built on 2.3 acres of land at 61stand Halsted streets in the Englewood neighborhood.
The land for Hope Manor II, which will house 73 veterans and their families, was donated by the City of Chicago. The two housing projects in the city are meant to provide opportunities for job training, family counseling and health care.
According to Volunteers of America, which will develop the property, 6 to 8 percent of homeless veterans are women, and as many as 175 women, most with children, are homeless in Chicago each night. The new complex will have studio apartments or three bedroom apartments and four bedroom- town homes.
As an employee of Catholic Charities, Bertel Smith deals with veterans on a daily basis, many of them in desperate need of the kind of help the Hope Manor Two Project is hoping to provide,
“A lot of veterans are from a different age group than the ones from Iraq and Afghanistan,” Smith said. “They go through a ton of difficulty when they have returned home. From being homeless with no place to stay, to being addicted to all kinds of drugs and it being nearly impossible to get off whatever they are on, to them being unemployed and struggling to find work.”
Smith believes that the new Hope Manor Two Apartment Complex is needed for both veterans and the Englewood community as a whole.
“I strongly believe that this was absolutely needed for the veterans,” Smith said. “They have needed this for a while and I am so happy that Alderman Joann Thompson and Volunteers of America are doing something to rectify the situation. This project can help out Englewood as well. With new jobs opening up and this complex bringing in new businesses along with it, the people of Englewood should be extremely excited about it.”
Walker said the venture as a win-win for everyone involved.
“The people of Englewood should be ecstatic over this,” Walker continued, “There are not a lot of new buildings in Englewood. There are a lot of buildings that get torn down in the Englewood Community, but there are not a lot of buildings that get built in that community. We at Volunteers of America consider ourselves a part of Englewood, like any other community. Englewood needed the support and we truly feel like their next door neighbor.”
Walker noted that the complex will also house a new playground, something that has become virtually foreign to the neighborhood in recent times. “For the kids that are homeless, it will be a nice safe place for them to play,” he said.
After viewing the blueprints and plans for Hope Manor, Walker said it was practically a no-brainer that Volunteers of America would be involved.
Walker and the Volunteers of America saw that homeless veteran’s desperately needed help. “We’re a national organization that serves veterans,” Walker said. “Seven years ago, there were no facilities and for us it made a lot of sense for us to start putting something together for the veterans,” Walker said.
And yet, he stresses, the Hope Manor project is more unique than many of those of the past.
“For starters, it is an apartment complex for female veterans and their families,” Walker said. “With Hope Manor One, it is one large building. With Hope Manor Two, it has six flats, five town houses and overall twelve buildings will make up the complex.”
Meanwhile, Smith says the overall success of the project depends on the treatment given to the veterans who will occupy the facility.
“Honestly, it is half and half on if the veterans will be excited about this.” “Some veterans will be excited about this complex and how they are getting helped out. There will be some veterans expecting more; they will be looking for more than just an apartment complex, just looking for more help. It is essential who you bring into it, but overall the community will be excited and most of the veterans.”
Lynn Geiger, a 20-year veteran who grew up in the Englewood Community and has seen fellow veterans gs through hardships, and had her own as well.
“Many veterans that I have encountered have suffered from mental illnesses, resentment, abandonment, broken relationships and much more,” Geiger said. “Over the years, I have had to depend on VA Housing, counseling, mental illnesses as well as substance abuse training.”
Geiger also says that the new apartment complex will have Englewood going into a positive direction.
“I believe that this newly built apartment complex will cut crime down a lot,” Geiger said. “This will produce better medical care for the veterans as well. This will also foster better citizens as well in the community. Englewood is and should be very excited about this new addition to the community,” Geiger said.