Maryville proposes shelter home for teen girls at former Arlington Heights convent

Maryville Academy has proposed converting a former convent in Arlington Heights into a shelter home for up to 16 teenage girls who come to the United States as unaccompanied minors.

The Des Plaines-based social service agency has the Sisters of the Living Word building at 800 N. Fernandez Ave. under contract, where it plans to turn the religious order's former administrative offices and convent into Maryville's proposed St. Anne Program.

The home would be for girls ages 12-17 who are under the care of the federal Administration of Children and Families and Office of Refugee Resettlement until they are 18 years old. Maryville would take in up to 10 girls, and another six who are either pregnant or parenting, according to the proposal.

The residents would attend local schools and receive vocational, language and educational support at the home, as well as counseling/therapy and leadership and life skills classes, officials said.

Each girl would have her own room. House rules would require them to attend school, help prepare meals and do laundry. The home would include a music and art room, computer/homework room and lounge. Residents won't be able to leave the property on their own.

The facility would be staffed 24 hours, with up to six employees there during the day and three at night. Add in case managers, clinicians and a nurse, and there could be as many as 15 staff members on site at peak, officials said.

Maryville would help the girls find family members who may be able to provide a permanent home. When they turn 18, they would be transferred to a group home for young adult women.

The 3.76-acre property, which borders single-family homes and is just north of the Arlington Ridge Center recreation building, includes an open field and the 2-story, 28,725-square-foot convent that once was Ridge Elementary School. A portion was leased to Northwest Suburban Montessori School until it closed in 2020.

The village's planning and community development department staff has recommended approval of a special use permit to allow the shelter care home in what is a residentially zoned area, saying that the proposed use is compatible with the historical usage of the property. Staff said they also agree with Maryville's request to waive a village requirement for a traffic and parking study, since 16 residents and a peak staff of 15 employees would be a low intensity use for the building not likely to generate much traffic.

Other proposals for the site reviewed in the last two years — including a 13-lot single-family home subdivision — would've had more people and traffic, village officials said.

The plan commission will review the proposal and accept public comment at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, before issuing a recommendation to approve or deny to the village board.

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