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Specialized New Star Apartments set to welcome new residents

After more than a year of planning and coordination, a new six-unit apartment building to accommodate adults with disabilities will see its first move-ins within weeks.
The building at 1032-1038 Leavitt Avenue in Flossmoor was constructed through a cooperative effort by the Illinois Housing Development Authority, the Housing Authority of Cook County and New Star Services, a south suburban nonprofit agency that serves people with developmental disabilities. 
Dan Strick, CEO of New Star Services, said members of the public can visit the apartments during an open house scheduled for 3 to 5 p.m. Jan. 11. On hand to speak at the event will be the executive directors of the state and county housing authorities, which contributed to this groundbreaking arrangement.
“These apartments are the first of their kind in Illinois in that the Housing Authority of Cook County is helping to subsidize rent for people with disabilities,” Strick said. “The project is unique in that regard.”
Throughout December 2017, New Star Services worked with the Housing Authority of Cook County to identify its first four residents. As those individuals get settled, New Star staff will continue the process of locating tenants who meet the required criteria for the building. 
The apartments are for people with disabilities who do not require 24-hour care, can live alone with some support services, and already are on the county housing authority’s waiting list.
Each of the apartments includes accessibility features such as lowered countertops, easy-to-open door handles and widened doorways. Two of the units offer advanced assistance tools such as roll-in tubs and smoke alarms with visual as well as audio alerts.
Though all the apartments are one-bedroom units, Strick said married couples may move in. They even have two brothers who are considering taking a unit together.
While technically the new residents can move from anywhere in Cook County, Strick said their preference is to find residents who are from as near to Flossmoor as possible.
“Successful residents in this type of living situation will have some kind of connection with the community, whether it’s family, friends or a place of worship, for example,” Strick said. “Those who have those ties in place are going to be much more successful.”
New Star Services staff interviews potential residents to see whether they’re a good fit and to learn what kind of assistance they might need. Residents will hook into New Star’s services — if they’re not already — on an individualized basis, getting employment, meal assistance or money management help.
However, Strick said the purpose of the program is to teach residents how to do things for themselves, so they may live as independently as possible. A washer and dryer in the common area encourage residents to do their own laundry, for example. And, of course, they may come and go as they please.
“This is another opportunity to help people with disabilities become more integrated into our community,” Strick said. “We will have staff who will check in every day, monitoring how things are going. Are people keeping up with their apartment? Are they doing the laundry? Do they need support?”
The apartments are not furnished. Residents have the option of bringing in their own furniture and decor, or asking New Star for assistance in purchasing items. Strick said there are funds left over in the project budget to buy some furnishings for residents.
“We all like different decorations,” he said. “We wanted to let them make it unique and not have it be the same nightstand or the same dresser in every apartment.”
Strick said it’s exciting to see the apartment project finally come to fruition, and he credited the state and county housing authorities for their cooperation as well as the Village of Flossmoor, including the Zoning Board of Appeals, Mayor Paul Braun and village trustees. 
He said the apartment building may act as a powerful example of this type of housing done right.
“We think it could be an excellent model to replicate in other communities,” Strick said. “We want to make sure we’re good neighbors and we’re doing this well. Once those pieces are in place, we’d love to look at other communities for expanding the program.

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