Disability housing complex PhilHaven celebrates opening in Wheeling
Monday was a day of celebration for a Wheeling housing complex for people with disabilities and others that has faced mixed reaction from the community during its six years of development.
The grand opening of PhilHaven at 2418 W. Hintz Road drew more than 50 people, including residents, representatives of elected officials and disability advocate groups. Speakers from UP Development LLC, the Illinois Department of Human Services and the Housing Authority of Cook County were among those who addressed the complex's supporters.
"Behind me is a place that is not just a building, but a home to 50 households living with various kinds of disabilities who needed access not only to high-quality housing, but to the services that would help them stay in that housing and live the life they dream of," UP Development President Jessica Berzac said. "Now, 50 families are able to be housed and have a home where they feel safe ... and where they live with dignity."
The three-story, 50-unit permanent supportive housing development includes one-, two- and three-bedroom fully furnished and subsidized apartments for individuals and families with disabilities, as well as those previously homeless, moving from nursing homes or veterans. Residents have been moving in since February.
"I'm glad they're opening it to all people with disabilities, and everyone here since I've been here has been really nice," said Melanie Levin, who arrived at PhilHaven in May. "The services have been really great. I've gotten to go with some of the groups, and I feel like I've gotten a lot out of it."
UP Development partnered with the Kenneth Young Center of Elk Grove Village to provide case management, career and education services and counseling for residents.
There will also be 24-hour security and monitoring available.
The development has not always been embraced by the community. The Wheeling village board twice voted against the project, but reversed its decision when U.S. District Court Judge John Z. Lee explained it had a strong chance of losing the case.
Advocates for people with disabilities and mitigating homelessness described the grand opening as a "victory."
"We see that a lot where people don't want homeless people in their backyard, but we see this as a legal coup where we're able to get a beautiful housing unit like this in another of the outlining suburban areas where people need to be housed," said Sharon King, office manager of the Alliance to End Homelessness in Suburban Cook County. "All of these projects reflect the ability to start getting people off the street and get them housed."
The demand for PhilHaven was high. In August, more than 200 people waited in line and 150 applications were filled out.
Other similar projects are in the works in the county. UP Development with Housing Opportunity Development are proposing a two-story, 16-unit rental building at 120-122 E. Boeger Drive in Arlington Heights for people with disabilities. The village board voted to approve the project June 19.