District 95 wants to be in loop on homeless plan
Lake Zurich Unit School District 95 officials say they want to be included in talks about housing chronically homeless people with mental illness near two schools.
May Whitney Elementary School and neighboring Lake Zurich High School sit about a mile south of Midlothian Manor, a vacant 14-unit former senior living facility in unincorporated Ela Township.
In November, a Lake County judge's decision revived the homeless plan for the Lake County Housing Authority site on Lake Zurich's northern edge. Under the proposal, the PADS Lake County homeless agency would operate the facility for the housing authority as a federal Safe Haven program serving the chronically homeless with mental illness.
District 95 administrators and elected officials have received telephone calls and emails from residents concerned about the site's proximity to Lake Zurich High and May Whitney.
School board President Doug Goldberg addressed the plan after a representative of the Residents for an Engaged Community opposition group spoke at a meeting last week. He said questions should be asked about how the Midlothian Manor residents would be supported to "ease concerns of community members, especially as related to the operations of the school district."
"When any new service or opportunity is being developed by a government agency, we trust that the agency gives full scrutiny and support to ensure a successful integration within the community," Goldberg said.
Superintendent Kaine Osburn said he hopes District 95 is included in the Midlothian Manor planning process.
Housing authority Executive Director/CEO David Northern said he's been in contact with District 95 and there has been routine follow-up correspondence with Lake Zurich-area residents for and against the plan.
Residents for an Engaged Community members' concerns range from safety to the plan's impact on property values and the lack of public transportation and nearby services for potential Midlothian Manor residents. The group is preparing for an expected Illinois appellate court fight in its quest to block the housing authority's plan.
Northern said the community should trust his agency because it successfully manages about 3,500 housing vouchers and units in Lake County.
"We pride ourselves on being good neighbors," Northern said, "and this situation reminds me of a quote by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: 'The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.'"
In July 2015, the housing authority filed a lawsuit 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 countered that the loss of the occupancy permit unfairly denied it use of a building it owns for government purposes.
Lake County Judge Thomas Schippers agreed with the housing authority and overturned the zoning board's decision.