Plan would bring homeless to facility near Lake Zurich

PADS Lake County plans to move rental housing for chronically homeless people with mental illness from a North Chicago hospital campus to a single-family residential neighborhood just outside Lake Zurich.

Under the plan, the nonprofit homeless agency would lease the 14-unit Midlothian Manor building owned by the Lake County Housing Authority. The structure, at Midlothian Road and Lakewood Lane in unincorporated Lake County, previously was operated by the authority as senior housing.

PADS Executive Director Joel Williams said he'd understand if neighborhood concern arises. He said PADS intends to meet with Lake Zurich-area residents to explain the plan, answer questions and attempt to quell any misinformation before Midlothian Manor is occupied. No date has been set for that meeting.

"We just want to make sure we have that conversation with them," Williams said.

Housing Authority Executive Director David Northern said a re-occupancy permit must be granted by the Lake County planning, building and development department before anyone moves into Midlothian Manor. The goal is to have the new tenants in as soon as possible, he said.

While the property is under Lake County Board jurisdiction, no public hearings by county or any others are necessary for the Midlothian Manor proposal to proceed, Northern said.

Some Lake Zurich-area government leaders say they haven't been told anything about Midlothian Manor. Among them is Lake Zurich Mayor Thomas Poynton, who said he recently was contacted by two homeowners from just outside village boundaries living near the building who wanted to know if he had any information.

Asked if he'd want to attend an PADS-hosted meeting, Poynton said, "No question about it."

Documents submitted by PADS to the housing authority, which were obtained through a Daily Herald open-records request, detail the plan for Midlothian Manor.

PADS' Safe Haven program would move from a building at Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Center in North Chicago to the residential neighborhood in Ela Township, on Lake Zurich's northern border. PADS has provided 13 rooms "of safety and consistency" for chronically homeless people with mental illness in North Chicago since 2005.

But with the end of a lease and the federal facility considered outdated and inappropriate for PADS' clients, the agency decided Midlothian Manor can provide a nicer setting for what would be an increase to 14 renters, Williams said. He said homeless agencies are trying to move from institutional to residential settings.

About $100,000 in renovations to Midlothian Manor were approved by the housing authority board. Northern said most of the work is finished.

Ela Township Supervisor Lucy Prouty, who was unfamiliar with the Midlothian Manor plan, said she supports the idea of getting the homeless into a stable setting and off the streets. However, she added, a potential drawback to the building could be a lack of public transportation.

Plans call for an employee to be at Midlothian Manor 24 hours a day, with help from a full-time program manager and clinical social worker. An advanced practice nurse also would serve the residents, who would live dormitory style with a communal kitchen.

"Individuals experiencing homelessness and having a mental illness are the most vulnerable and would utilize emergency services such as hospitals and jails on a more frequent basis," according to the PADS documents. "Permanent supportive housing has shown to be more cost effective due to decreased reliance on emergency services when connected with community resources such as medical and mental health professionals."

Midlothian Manor clients would rent their units from PADS by paying a portion of their income, from government assistance or a job, Williams said. Resident services would include lessons on money management, using public transit and understanding a mental health diagnosis.

"The mental illnesses with which they are dealing vary, but are not of the severity that would warrant or necessitate institutionalization," Williams said.

Other Lake County agencies are supporting PADS' initiative in the Lake Zurich area. North Chicago-based Independent Positive Living is one of the backers.

"Their proposal for the use of the Midlothian Manor property is exciting and we heartily support it," Independent Positive Living Executive Director Ralph Bishop wrote in a letter to PADS.

Northern said the housing authority operated Midlothian Manor as assisted and supportive living for seniors from when it purchased the building in 2001 to 2010. He said low occupancy rates led to Midlothian Manor's closure.

PADS would lease Midlothian Manor for three to five years for $65,000 to $83,000 annually, Northern said. PADS has commitments for continued Safe Haven grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and two private foundations.

Northern said the housing authority tried to sell Midlothian Manor or find a way to restart the assisted and supportive living for seniors, without success. He said the PADS proposal makes the most sense.

"With changing demographics and market conditions, the (housing authority) identified an increase in the population of homeless individuals in Lake County," he said.

  PADS Lake County plans to house 14 chronically homeless people who are mentally ill at this building at Midlothian Road and Lakewood Lane, in a residential neighborhood just outside Lake Zurich. Bob Susnjara/
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