Housing sought for homeless veterans | Local News
KANKAKEE – A property on South Washington Avenue, which was more recently a residence for troubled youth, is seen as a possible location for a 14-unit apartment complex for homeless military veterans – primarily those in Kankakee County.
The Kankakee Planning Council, by a 7-0 vote last week, approved a conditional use permit for a group community residence that would allow the property managed by the Kankakee County Housing Authority to operate on the site which was also the long-standing location of the Senesac. Funeral and Cremation Home, 210 S. Washington Ave.
Currently owned by Neighborhood Redevelopment LLC, which is managed by Managing Partner Jeff Bennett of Limestone, the 5th Ward property has been vacant for over a year.
After the Senecac Funeral Home closed, the location became the site of the halfway house called The Journey Home, a leased location from the Nexus-Indian Oaks Academy, where 20 young men who were graduating from the academy program could live and work.
The Journey Home opened in May 2013.
” IT’S AN OPPORTUNITY “
According to Eric Hanson, an attorney representing the Kankakee County Housing Authority, said KCHA submitted a request for $ 3.5 million to the Illinois Housing Development Authority to rehabilitate the property and provide operating funds.
A decision on the IHDA application is expected within 30-60 days.
The site would be reserved for military men and women. Each efficiency unit would be approximately 250 square feet and would include a kitchenette.
Although no exact figures were presented, the budget to rehabilitate the two-story property was aimed at around $ 1.5 million.
If all goes according to plan, KCHA would close the property in the spring of 2022 and have an eight-month rehabilitation period for the property. The goal would be for the property to be ready for occupants by the end of 2022.
The extent of the problem for homeless and displaced veterans in Kankakee County is somewhat unknown. Authorities have noted that there are at least eight to 12 homeless vets, but that number is far from official as most people facing homelessness often do not come forward.
Doug Jones, chairman of the board of KCHA, said veterans are always a priority on the agency’s waiting list, but having a dedicated veterans location has long been a goal.
” It’s an opportunity. It seems like a great way to serve our veterans, ”Jones said. “It just seems like the right thing to do. “
The goal of this housing program is to help struggling veterans get back on their feet, Jones said. During the presentation to the planning committee, Hanson noted that there is no time limit as to how long a veteran can call the location home.
To be eligible to stay at home, the veteran must be subject to income restrictions. The income guideline states that they cannot earn more than 30 percent of the region’s median income, in which case that would equate to an annual income of less than $ 15,000.
While everyone who commented during the discussion thanked the veterans for their service, there were many concerns expressed as to whether the South Washington property was the right location.
Eight members of the Kankakee municipal council were present at the hearing.
Kankakee 3rd Ward Alderman David Crawford asked, “Is this the project we want downtown, yes or no? I do not know. We really need to think about what we’re doing here.
The city is looking to expand its footprint somewhat downtown and development is moving outward. The concern is whether a project like this will discourage private investment.
Some council members noted that veterans homelessness is a county-wide problem. And because this is a problem for all of Kankakee County, could the house be located somewhere else?
Hanson said building a new residence would cost significantly more than rehabilitating that site.
“At the moment it is a vacant building,” he said, adding that if it stayed that way it could lead to other problems.
“Kankakee may have a redevelopment in their downtown area and this fantastic project. These two things don’t need to be mutually exclusive, ”said Hanson.
He also noted that the veterans would be part of the neighborhood and likely find work at nearby businesses, which are struggling to find workers.
Jones said this question does not have to be an “one or the other” choice.
“We can coexist,” he said. “We want to be good neighbors.