Our View: Veterans housing plan fills a need
SouthtownStar editorial January 4, 2013 10:10PM
Updated: February 7, 2013 6:36AM
When Silver Cross Hospital officials announced several years ago that they would close the Joliet hospital and build a new one in New Lenox, there was much concern among Joliet leaders — not only about losing a major hospital but also about finding new uses for the property.
Now, a promising proposal has surfaced that would meet an important social need as well as complement the large veterans medical clinic that’s scheduled to open this spring in the emergency care area of the former hospital.
Volunteers of America, a nonprofit agency based in Alexandria, Va., is proposing Hope Manor Apartments Joliet — 72 apartments in three buildings for low-income veterans and their families as well as a community park on three acres donated by Silver Cross.
By late this year, the organization will provide housing for about 150 vets and their families at two developments in Chicago, and it also operates Marycrest Village, a 60-unit development for low-income senior citizens in Joliet.
The plan is scheduled to be presented Thursday night at a community meeting at Joliet City Hall. Earlier Thursday, it will go before the city council’s land use committee, the first step in what we hope is a smooth approval process by the city in light of the obvious benefits of the project.
The Veterans Affairs Department says the homeless rate for Iraqi and Afghanistan veterans is rising sharply (by some estimates having doubled since 2010). Many others are at risk of losing their homes or are living in temporary housing. The VA attributes the higher numbers of homeless vets to more aggressive efforts to identify and help younger ones, their war-related mental and physical problems and a slow economic recovery.
Joliet City Manager Thomas Thanas described the planned apartment complex as a “natural fit” for the site because of the VA outpatient clinic. We agree and urge Joliet council members to approve a development that will meet a critical need for veterans in south Cook and Will counties.