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Veterans Fear They'll Be Excluded from New Development

By Wendell Hutson | April 28, 2013 8:17am

ENGLEWOOD — For veterans like Walter Whitman, getting a spot in a proposed development for low-income former servicemembers may be difficult if they're not on the agency's waiting list for a Housing Choice Voucher.

"Had I known I would have signed up a long time ago before the list closed. I never thought that would be a requirement to receive veteran's housing," said Whitman, 79, who retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1976 after 27 years of service.

Getting one of the 73 units set to be built in Hope Manor II at the corner of 60th and Halsted streets may be difficult if enough qualified veterans are found on the Chicago Housing Authority's waiting list, said Nancy Hughes, president and chief executive officer for Volunteers for America Illinois, a Chicago nonprofit organization spearheading the project.

"The best thing for a veteran, who is not on the waiting list to do, is to call us and we'll figure out what course of action to take," Hughes said. "This is a public housing project for low-income veterans and their families. If there are units available after exhausting veterans on the waiting list, we would open up a site list."

Completion for the development is expected by June 2014, according to Hughes, who added that no veteran would pay more than 30 percent of their income towards rent.

"Rent is based on a veteran's income. This is an independent living facility so all veterans would need to be able to live on their own with minimum assistance," she said.

The units would consist of eight studios, 23 one-bedrooms, six two-bedrooms, 30 three-bedrooms, and five townhomes, which would each have four bedrooms. Additionally, the complex would provide social service services, such as counseling and job training.

Background checks would be conducted and while felons are allowed sex offenders and those convicted of certain drug crimes would be prohibited, which Hughes said is standard when living in public housing.

Charles Woodyard, CEO of the Chicago Housing Authority, joined Gov. Pat Quinn at a ground-breaking ceremony last week. He said more affordable housing is needed for veterans.

"That’s why this project is so important. Hope Manor II will serve as a catalyst for future growth in Englewood and help to meet the critical housing needs of veterans on our CHA waiting list," Woodyard said at the ceremony. "Our vision is to help create an even stronger community with good, quality schools, convenient access to public transportation, meaningful retail and other amenities."

But building more affordable housing does no good if you must already be on a waiting list that's closed, said Lester Carol, 68, who served in the U.S. Army for 22 years.

"I live in Englewood but won't be able to get a room at this place because I am not on some stupid list," Carol said. "If the city really wants to help veterans then they should build shelters strictly for veterans and then at least we will have somewhere descent to stay. That's why you see a lot of vets sleeping on the sidewalks. They have no where else to go."