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Wayne's Words: Evergreen Terrace and Hope Manor 'affordable housing' plans

Wayne Horne | 8/6/2015, 10:10 a.m.
The Joliet City Council has signed off on a housing plan for homeless vets but still debating how to handle ...
An artist's rendering of what the Hope Manor complex for homeless veterans will look like when built by the Volunteers of America on former Silver Cross Hospital land in Joliet. Volunteers of America

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Wayne Horne

Affordable housing in government terms manifests itself in many ways. The Joliet City Council faced the affordable housing issue at this week’s meeting in two different ways.

Evergreen Terrace

The Housing Authority of Joliet presented a "what and how" plan for Evergreen Terrace to the Joliet City Council as an alternative to the proposals offered by Holsten Management at last week’s special council meeting. HAJ’s proposal is potentially less expensive for the city than the Holsten proposals.

According to the HAJ plan, the Evergreen Terrace complex would be integrated with the agency's mission of providing affordable housing in the Will County area. The authority operates conventional public housing complexes and provides Section 8 Housing Choice vouchers. It also provides quality housing units for eligible seniors, families and disabled individuals throughout Will County.

The presentation proposed the city partner with HAJ to manage and redevelop Evergreen Terrace. The property could be redeveloped over seven years and be included in the overall mission for the agency.

The proposals put forward by Holsten and HAJ are contingent on the council’s decision to become the owner of the Evergreen Terrace property. The decision to purchase or not purchase the complex will be made at the Aug. 18 council meeting.

A decision to purchase the property for $15 million requires the payment be made by Sept. 1.

An unresolved problem for the city, if the decision is to purchase the complex, is how Evergreen Terrace will be managed starting Day One (Sept. 1). With the deadline looming, there is no plan in place to take over the day-to-day management, should the city by the new the owner. Security and daily maintenance are essential services that must be provided.

HAJ CEO Michael Simelton told council members it would take about 30 days for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to approve them as Evergreen's managers.

Hope Manor

The Department of Veterans Affairs made a determination in 2009 to eliminate homelessness among veterans by 2015. They are not going to make it but progress has been made in most states.

According to a report by National Public Radio, the problem of homeless veterans has been reduced by about 33 percent, with most states showing a reduction. Illinois is not one of those states. In fact, the number of homeless Illinois veterans has increased since 2009.

Illinois does not have a large homeless veteran population. According to the NPR table, Illinois has slightly more than 1,200 homeless vets, some with families.

The exact number of veterans who become homeless is not always known. Getting to zero is probably not possible. Progress is called “functional zero.” The term is defined as having a process and resources in place that can immediately house a veteran and, if necessary, their family.

Joliet moved a step closer to helping eliminate veteran homelessness Tuesday night when the council voted unanimously to approve a preliminary planned unit development for Hope Manor on former Silver Cross Hospital land.

Hope Manor will be comprised of four buildings with 67 one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments. The project will provide affordable, supportive housing, counseling, employment assistance and other services for veterans and their families.

One last thing…

HAJ’s Simelton made a statement at Tuesday’s council meeting that may surprise some. He said Joliet has “adequate affordable housing.” That begs the question of why there are waiting lists for all of agency's projects and for Evergreen Terrace. Just asking. Stay tuned…

Contact Wayne Horne at whorne@TheTimesWeekly.com.