Homeless housing plan outside Lake Zurich raises fears

Lake Zurich-area residents worry about crime, lower property values

Concerns about additional crime and a drop in property values were among those expressed by Lake Zurich-area residents at an informational meeting Monday night on a plan to move rental housing for chronically homeless people with mental illnesses from North Chicago to a residential neighborhood just outside the village.

About 60 residents gathered at Ela Area Public Library in Lake Zurich for the meeting that featured Joel Williams, executive director of the PADS Lake County homeless agency, answering questions.

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

PADS' Safe Haven program would move from a building at the Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Center in North Chicago to the single-family residential neighborhood on the edge of northern Lake Zurich. Safe Haven serves the chronically homeless with mental illness.

Similar to many in the crowd, Lake Zurich resident Paul Zacharias expressed fears a repurposed Midlothian Manor would lead to more crime and a drop in area property values.

"My concerns are the individuals who are going to be placed there - if they have criminal backgrounds, if they are current substance abusers - how they're vetted. Are there going to be sex offenders there? We have a high school and a grammar school very close," said Zacharias, a retired Chicago police officer.

But Lake Zurich resident Don Murray was part of the minority in the crowd, saying the chronically homeless at Midlothian Manor should not be a problem.

"I think it's a good location for the people to be at," Murray said. "I think it's a good use of the building. What else do we do with the building? ... I am more comfortable with the professionals administering to these men and women more than I am with these men and women just cruising the streets."

Williams told the crowd the agency does criminal background checks on housing clients.

"There will not be any drug dealers," Williams said in response to a question.

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

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 is supposed to serve the residents, who would live dormitory style with a communal kitchen.

Representatives from the housing authority and the Lake County building, zoning and development department also attended the meeting and were available to answer questions.

Officials from the agencies had planned for an open house - not a traditional meeting - with questions answered at tables in the library meeting room. But Ela Township resident Cheryl Harvey Gorey, who lives next to Midlothian Manor, stepped to a podium with a microphone and asked for Williams and the other representatives to answer questions before the full crowd.

Residents can't move into Midlothian Manor until Lake County grants a re-occupancy permit.

  Residents listen to PADS Executive Director Joel Williams explain a plan to move a housing facility for chronically homeless people with mental illness from North Chicago to Midlothian Manor near Lake Zurich. The meeting was held Ela Area Public Library in Lake Zurich Monday evening. Steve Lundy/
  PADS Lake County intends to place 14 chronically homeless people with mental illness in Midlothian Manor in a residential neighborhood just outside Lake Zurich. Bob Susnjara/
  Jeff Rae of Lake Zurich listens intently as PADS Executive Director Joel Williams answers questions Monday night. Steve Lundy/
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