Lake Zurich-area group formed to back homeless housing plan

Some Lake Zurich-area residents have formed a group that supports placing homeless people with mental illness in a vacant building just outside the village, a proposal that has faced long-organized opposition.

Two LZ Compassionate Community members introduced themselves Thursday to officials at a meeting of the Lake County Housing Authority, which owns the 14-unit Midlothian Manor. The vacant former seniors facility, which closed in 2010, is at Midlothian Road and Oakwood Lane in Ela Township on Lake Zurich's northern edge.

Betty Birner of Hawthorn Woods said the group started about three weeks ago because many residents back the idea of PADS Lake County operating the facility for the housing authority as a federal Safe Haven program serving the chronically homeless with mental illness.

"It is the best way for these folks to get back on their feet," Birner said. "And we are hoping people will learn, educate themselves. We have a group that has pulled themselves together to help educate the community, to learn that this is a benefit and a bonus both for the residents and the community."

Residents for an Engaged Community is an opposition group that launched soon after the Midlothian Manor proposal became publicly known in late 2014. Concerns include safety, the effect on property values, and the lack of public transportation and nearby services for potential clients.

At a Feb. 20 meeting attended by 125 people mostly against the homeless plan, Residents for an Engaged Community members encouraged visitors to take signs that read: "Midlothian Manor. Good Cause. Wrong Location."

LZ Compassionate Community member Lisa Warder said Midlothian Manor supporters began social media conversations after that meeting at Ela Area Public Library in Lake Zurich. They agreed there was a need to form a support group.

"We're also creating some volunteer opportunities for residents, things like coming together to make welcome signs for the (homeless) residents when they move into the area," said Warder, who's from Lake Zurich. "We want to organize a community cookout for them when they move in. And even to create just a list of volunteers for people to bring homemade meals or snacks, goodies, to the new residents. Things that you would do when any other person moved into your neighborhood."

Warder said LZ Compassionate Community has a website. Residents for an Engaged Community started a website when it formed.

In November, a Lake County judge's decision revived the homeless plan. The housing authority filed a lawsuit in July 2015 after the Lake County zoning board of appeals reversed approval of an occupancy permit that would have allowed the homeless to live in Midlothian Manor.

The zoning panel became involved in early 2015 after Residents for an Engaged Community formally objected to the permit.

Court documents show the housing authority claimed the loss of the permit unfairly denied it use of a building it owns for government purposes. Lake County Judge Thomas Schippers agreed and overturned the zoning board's decision.

Housing authority attorney Brian Grach told board members Thursday documents have yet to be filed in an Illinois appellate court seeking to overturn Schippers' ruling.

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  Betty Birner of Hawthorn Woods is a member of LZ Compassionate Community, a group formed to support a plan to place chronically homeless people with mental illness in the vacant Midlothian Manor just outside Lake Zurich. Birner told the Lake County Housing Authority board Thursday her group believes the program would be a benefit to the homeless and the community. Bob Susnjara/
  A Lake Zurich-area group, Residents for an Engaged Community, had signs available at a February meeting for those opposed to a proposal to place chronically homeless people with mental illness in the vacant Midlothian Manor building just outside the village's northern boundary. Bob Susnjara/
There now are organized groups for and against a proposal to place chronically homeless people with mental illness in the 14-unit Midlothian Manor just outside Lake Zurich. Daily Herald file photo
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