CHICAGO – After years of struggling with substance abuse and shuttling between relatives’ homes, veteran Steven G. Brooks finally has a stable place to call home and access to the training he needs to launch a new career. A 43-year-old Marine Corps veteran of the first Gulf War, Brooks is one of the new residents of Hope Manor Apartments, a new development on Chicago’s West Side that ensures 80 formerly homeless veterans have both a safe and supportive place to live.
On behalf of Governor Pat Quinn, Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) Executive Director Mary R. Kenney today celebrated the grand opening of the new supportive housing development for veterans in advance of Memorial Day. IHDA, the state’s housing agency, invested $4 million in federal tax credits, federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) housing stimulus funds and Illinois Affordable Housing Tax Credits to build the development. The federal tax credits generated an additional $8.8 million in private equity for construction of the building.
“Hope Manor Apartments provides veterans with access to the safe and decent housing, and support they deserve after serving our country,” IHDA Executive Director Mary R. Kenney said. “Under Governor Pat Quinn’s leadership, the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) has financed more than 2,100 units of supportive housing, so veterans and other Illinois residents can get off the streets and acquire the skills necessary to get on the road to self-sufficiency.”
Director Kenney added that state funding is severely tightened by the unsustainable growth in the Medicaid and pension systems, and urged support of Governor Quinn’s reform plans. Public pensions and Medicaid currently take up 39 percent of state general revenue spending, and will grow to 50 percent next year without major reforms. Inaction could also severely limit the state’s ability to fund core services.
Brooks battled depression and substance abuse following his military service. He recently enrolled in a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ day hospital program that has helped him turn his life around. In his month at Hope Manor, he has continued to move forward with his rehabilitation. He dreams of becoming an electrical engineer.
“It’s a blessing to be here. As I rehabilitate my mind and orientate myself, the best thing Hope Manor Apartments provides is peace of mind,” Brooks said of his new studio apartment. “And that peace of mind helps me find stability.”
Hope Manor, 3053 W. Franklin Boulevard, features 30 studio apartments, and 10 two-bedroom and 10 three-bedroom suites. Residents will have access to employment readiness classes, job training and coaching, computer training, a business resource center, a health and wellness clinic, peer support groups, recovery resources, individual counseling and case management.
Developed by the Volunteers of America of Illinois, the Hope Manor Apartments also received a $1 million U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs grant, and a $174,000 Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) grant. The City of Chicago donated the property to build Hope Manor, which will include a “green” roof and other environmentally-friendly features.
An estimated 14,055 people experience homelessness each night in Illinois, and 15 percent of those are veterans, according to the January 2011 National Alliance to End Homelessness State of Homelessness report. Nationally, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates more than 67,000 veterans are homeless on any given night. In addition to the myriad factors influencing homelessness – shortage in affordable housing, reduction in livable income and limited access to health care – a significant number of veterans live with the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance abuse. These struggles are often compounded by a lack of family and social support networks.
“Hope Manor Apartments exists today because many different organizations came together and not only recognized a need, but were able to take a vision and turn it into a reality,” said Nancy Hughes Moyer, President and CEO of Volunteers of America of Illinois. “Due to the hard work and heroic efforts of so many people, we are able to give homeless veterans in our community a welcoming and supportive place to heal and call home.”
Veterans receive referrals to live at Hope Manor, where a federal grant program reduces the amount of rent paid by each resident to make it affordable for veterans.