By Eileen O. Daday
A dream more than 10 years in the making is coming true for activists working to provide affordable supportive housing in the suburbs.
Heart's Place, a two-story, 18-unit development at 120 W. Boeger Drive on Arlington Heights's north side, is on track to open later this month, and everyone from state officials to local housing advocates is pleased.
"The building is lovely," said Hugh Brady, co-president of the North/Northwest Task Force on Supportive Housing for Individuals with Mental Illness. "The building is almost complete, with a landscaping crew putting in bushes and flowers, and the sod already has been put in. All that remains are small items on the punch list."
The task force works to create more permanent supportive housing for people with disabilities.
Brady and elected officials toured the Arlington Heights building Aug. 1. The contingent included Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Cook County Commissioner Scott Britton, along with state Sen. Ann Gillespie and Arlen Gould, a task force member and school board member in Wheeling Township Elementary District 21.
"While there is much more work to be done, I am proud that Heart's Place will open in the 14th (County Board) District and bring the stability of affordable housing and on-site case management support to residents and their families who need it most," Britton said.
Gillespie, whose district includes Arlington Heights, agreed, adding: "People in every part of Illinois, including in the 27th District, experience housing insecurity. The high cost of housing in the suburbs makes it difficult for working-class families, retirees and people in need of assisted living service to afford adequate housing."
The opening comes 10 years after the Arlington Heights village board voted down a proposal to build a permanent supported housing building on the same location. As part of that application process, the developer at the time completed a market survey to gauge the need.
"The market firm the developer hired found out that within a five-mile radius, there was a need for 973 units of permanent supportive housing for individuals living with mental illness," Brady said.
Over the ensuing years, members of the housing task force have had some success. Myers Place in Mount Prospect has 39 apartments, while PhilHaven in Wheeling has 50, and Spruce Village in Palatine will add 40 more apartments when it opens next summer.
In June 2017, the Arlington Heights board approved plans for Heart's Place, which adds 18 apartments, with 10 one-bedroom apartments and eight two-bedroom apartments, a shared community space, camera surveillance system and secure entry with resident intercom access.
"That brings the total to 147 (permanent supportive housing) apartments," Brady says, "leaving an unmet need of 826. So, we still have lots of work to do."
As it is, Myers Place and PhilHaven are fully occupied, with waiting lists so long that they are closed, he added.
Residents of Heart's Place will have modestly furnished apartments, but faith-based groups and the task force are working to outfit them with all the comforts of home, from sheets, towels and shower curtains, to cooking equipment, plates and glassware.
Task force members hope to put together a move-in basket and bag with these essentials for each apartment. Brady says it costs $520 to fully outfit an apartment, so his 'Move In Basket Committee' has been working hard to raise the money needed to fill the baskets, and faith communities in the area have responded.
A dedication ceremony for Heart's Place is planned for 3 p.m. Sept. 11, with a ribbon-cutting and open house. To find out how to donate toward outfitting the apartments, visit housingtaskforce.org/how_you_can_help.html.