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Veteran families’ housing breaks ground

Wed, May 29, 2013

Hope Manor II, one of the first large-scale developments in the U.S. to house veteran-headed families, broke ground April 25 in Englewood. The 73 units of housing and a headquarters building will be located on the west side of Halsted between 60th and 61st Streets.

Developed by the Volunteers of America of Illinois, the supportive housing acknowledges homelessness among women veterans and veterans with children that is growing faster than among veterans as a whole. According to VOA of Illinois, the rate of homelessness among veterans with families has been rising five percent annually for the past five years. The reasons are younger vets returning with severe Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) and the higher number of women in the U.S. military today.

In a separate interview, (see opposite page) Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs Erica Borggren said that women comprise 15 percent of existing military services. They are eight percent – the fastest growing component – of the veteran community, which is shrinking as a whole. Many women vets are primary caregivers, whether for their children or their parents.

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Hope Manor II will be a campus-style community with a mix of apartments: studios; one-, two-, and three-bedroom units; and four-bedroom townhomes, all grouped around a 21,000-square-foot playground and park. To qualify for residency, veterans must be at or below 60 percent of area median income, or $35,340 for a two-person household. Construction is expected to take one year. Waiting lists will open next October or November, according to VOA of Illinois President and CEO Nancy Hughes Moyer.

“Hope Manor II will serve an increasingly vulnerable population of veterans – younger veterans with families, many of whom are women with young children,” Hughes Moyer said at the groundbreaking. “These brave young men and women have sacrificed a great deal to serve our country and they deserve a safe and affordable place to call home when they return. Hope Manor II will provide our veterans with the stability and support to successfully reintegrate back into civilian life.”

As the name implies, residents will have access to a variety of supportive services located in the Headquarters building: employment readiness classes, job training and coaching, peer support groups, a business resource center, health and wellness center. Individual and family counseling, case management support and mental health screening will also be available through the VOA of Illinois True North Project, which reaches veterans wherever they are in their journey towards healing and stability.

The $23 million project received $3 million in tax increment financing from the City of Chicago; a $1.9 million federal HOME Investment Partnerships loan; an $800,000 loan from the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) and $190,000 from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. Ald. JoAnn Thompson (16th ward) was instrumental in getting the city of Chicago to donate the 2.33-acre site.

Thompson told StreetWise last fall that she had a vision of doing something for women veterans with children and had queried the City of Chicago Department of Housing and Economic Development, which introduced her to VOA of Illinois, which had just completed Hope Manor I on the West Side. Thompson said she also hoped the project, which is just two blocks from the CTA Green Line at Halsted and Kennedy-King College, would stimulate Englewood at the same time it helps veteran-headed families.

“You have to bring the people first and other things will come,” she said.

By Suzanne Hanney,
StreetWise Editor-In-Chief

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