Kimball Court Apartments, one of the newest apartment buildings in Homewood, is a special place because it is giving a home to 16 persons with mental illness.
More than 50 supporters were excited to see the building and meet residents when Sertoma Centre, Inc. held an open house on Jan. 20. The $4 million project took 18 months to complete.
“This is something we are all very, very excited about because of the individuals who will be living here,” Gus van den Brink, Sertoma’s executive director, told the audience.
The permanent supported housing complex is open to persons who, like 31-year-old resident Annyece, have a diagnosis of mental illness, such as bipolar disorder, depression or schizophrenia, but with medication can live independently. A few residents have moved from institutions or nursing homes. Annyece and several others had been living with family members.
Having her own place is making a world of difference for Annyece and her 5-year-old son. She has been struggling with mental illness for nearly 10 years. She sought out services from Aunt Martha’s Youth Service Center and after she received her diagnosis, she started services in 2012 with Sertoma Centre in Matteson. She is nearing the end of her skills management program and hopes to soon be able to find a job.
“She’s motivated and dedicated. It’s wonderful to see her grow,” said Jessica Krakowsky, PSR/QMHP supervisor at Sertoma who was Annyece’s first case manager.
“I’m so happy,” Annyece said as she watched her son show off his bedroom.
Estimates are that more than 216,000 mentally disabled persons in Cook County could use housing like Kimball Court. About 1,250 units have been built in Cook County since 2010, according to Charlotte Flickinger of the Illinois Housing Development Authority. Many communities fight supported housing, van den Brink said. He thanked Homewood Mayor Richard Hofeld and the village board for supporting this project.
The 16-unit building is very much like any other apartment complex with studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments. Each has a balcony. A building manager acts as a landlord. Depending on the situation, residents either brought furnishings or had them supplied.
Sertoma Centre, Inc., based in Alsip, has been working with the developmentally disabled population for decades and has 10 community integrated homes for them.
The agency has been working with the mentally ill for more than 20 years. This is the first Sertoma housing project for that population.
In 2009, staff recognized that the most critical need for the mentally ill was housing. Four staff members went through training to learn what it would take to develop a project like Kimball Court.
“As we grew to work with more people with mental illness, we discussed how there was no housing, no place for people to go, no support. They obviously can’t support market rent, so they need some rental subsidy and we started doing some research and learning about it,” said van den Brink.
The idea percolated for a number of years. In 2012, Sertoma applied for funding from the Illinois Housing Development Authority. Working with consultants from Linscott Park Development LLC, Sertoma was able to find the property on the far western edge of Homewood. The Cook County Department of Planning and Development provided funding and worked with the consultants to bring the project to fruition. Additional funding for green energy projects in the building was provided by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
The Housing Authority of Cook County and the Illinois Department of Human Services, Division of Mental Health provided rent subsidies above the 30 percent income threshold. Great Lakes Charitable Foundation is underwriting the salary of the property manager for two years.