Mental health advocates hope Wheeling apartments just the beginning
To Phillip Graham, Myers Place is more than just his home. The Mount Prospect apartment building is the place that brought back his self-esteem, helped him learn new abilities and give him a chance to be independent.
A similar $17 million, 50-unit housing development called Philhaven broke ground Tuesday at 2418 E. Hintz Road in Wheeling, where it's expected to open in the fall of 2016.
Like Myers Place, which opened in June 2013, Philhaven will offer housing to residents who are disabled, mentally ill or formerly homeless.
"I learned how to cook, learned to interact with other people, get help for the disabilities I have and learned that I do have abilities that are not just disabilities," said the 37-year-old Graham, who was one of Myers Place's first residents.
Unlike Myers Place, however, Philhaven was not initially welcomed into its community. Responding to opposition from residents, Wheeling's village board twice voted down the apartment proposal from Daveri Development. Officials reversed course in 2013 after Daveri sued the village in federal court and a judge gave strong indications that Wheeling was likely to lose the case. The village ultimately paid a $230,000 settlement for Daveri's legal costs.
Daveri Vice President for Development Jessica Berzac said the company, which also built Myers Place, hopes to add more housing of its kind in the Northwest suburbs. A similar proposal failed in Arlington Heights, but a plan for a 30-unit building in Palatine is in the works. Berzac said she also is in talks with Prospect Heights Mayor Nick Helmer.
Advocates say such housing is badly needed in the suburbs. Among the biggest proponents are members of the North/Northwest Suburban Task Force on Supportive Housing for Individuals with Mental Illness.
Task Force President Hugh Brady told a story Tuesday of an elderly woman who found a great home for her son, but had to drive long distances every day to visit him, "driving down the Dan Ryan, scaring herself to death."
While Myers Place only houses single-units, Philhaven will offer 31 one-bedroom, 13 two-bedroom and six three-bedroom furnished apartments. It will also feature a community room for programs, kitchen, laundry room, fitness room and computer room.
Susan Cowen, CEO of Kenneth Young Center, said residents will receive various means of support, whether help getting to a doctor's visit, finding employment opportunities or moving back into the community.
Counselors will live full-time at Philhaven to provide 24-hour security and monitoring. Elk Grove Village-based Kenneth Young is partnering with Alexian Brothers Center for Mental Health to provide counseling.
Tenants will pay 30 percent of their income for rent.
Residents must go through a multistage process in order to live at Philhaven, including background checks and an assessment of whether programs offered can help residents.