Residents pool cash to fight Lake County homeless plan

Some residents in Lake Zurich, Hawthorn Woods and nearby unincorporated areas have formed a group and are pooling their money as they consider how to contest a proposal to place chronically homeless people with mental illness in a neighborhood of single-family homes.

Known as Residents for an Engaged Community, the group reported raising about $18,800 as of Wednesday to fight the plan for Midlothian Manor, which is owned by the Lake County Housing Authority. Officials at PADS Lake County, a nonprofit homeless agency, want to move their Safe Haven program from the Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Center in North Chicago to the 14-unit building at Midlothian Road and Lakewood Lane near Lake Zurich's north side.

Cheryl Gorey, a member of the group's executive committee, said an attorney has been retained to possibly try to stop the housing authority's occupancy permit request for Midlothian Manor from Lake County's department of planning, building and development. Group members are from Lake Zurich, Hawthorn Woods and the unincorporated areas.

“We don't want to wait until they move in,” said Gorey, whose home in unincorporated Ela Township is next to Midlothian Manor.

Now vacant, Midlothian Manor previously was operated by the housing authority as a senior facility. PADS would rent the housing authority's building.

David Northern, the housing authority's executive director and chief executive officer, said his agency and PADS have taken into consideration opposition concerns that have included the possibility of additional crime and reduced property values as a result of Midlothian Manor, along with complaints about a lack of information. Northern said Wednesday not everyone opposes the proposal.

“While there is a strong effort opposing the project, there are also many who support our efforts and believe in what we are doing,” Northern said.

“It is a small percentage who have chosen to take action without discussing the project directly with (the housing authority) and with PADS. This has unfortunately led to a lot of misinformation being disseminated, which has resulted in unnecessary worry and fear. We are confident that once the project gets underway, the neighborhood will embrace and welcome these citizens as part of their community.”

Midlothian Manor's Safe Haven clients would rent their units from PADS by paying a portion of their income, from government assistance or a job.

Safe Haven serves the chronically homeless with mental illness.

Northern stressed Midlothian Manor won't be a homeless shelter.

He said the 14 residents would be screened by PADS in advance, with employees present 24 hours a day and resources such as a licensed clinical social worker and an advanced practice nurse.

“We strongly encourage those opposed to the project to look closer into the program and see how it benefits these individuals, including veterans of the United States military services who have selflessly served our country,” he said.

Gorey said money not used on legal fees by Residents for an Engaged Community will be donated to organizations that help the homeless and hungry in Lake County.

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