DECATUR, Ill. — Many of the military veterans waiting to move into supportive housing can carry all their worldly possessions with them.
Julie Mavec, a case manager for Lutheran Child and Family Services, said she moved one man in the past week who tied a blanket together to hold his clothes, used a duffel bag for his Bible and tools, and kept important papers and his medicine in a box.
"That was it," Mavec said. "That was all he had."
Because homeless veterans don't usually own as many belongings as other low-income tenants, Lutheran Child and Family Services and D&O Properties One LLC are seeking partners to help them furnish the 12 apartments and four houses they're renovating for the $1.1 million North Street Commons subsidized housing project.
About $75,000 is needed as part of an Adopt-An-Apartment program for the basic furniture, soft goods and small appliances that will remain with the 16 housing units as tenants come and go. Soft goods include pillows, blankets, shower curtains, trash cans, laundry baskets and kitchen utensils.
Lucy Brownlee, special project manager for D&O, said cash donations will buy new items and that all the furniture will be built for long-term use by Virginia-based Butler Woodcrafters. The only used items to be accepted are small electronics in good working order, such as televisions, microwaves, coffee makers, radios and DVD players.
The city of Mount Pulaski is the project's first partner, and a half-dozen of its citizens arrived Monday to decorate the first completed house on Decatur's east side for an open house this week. The two-bedroom bungalow is to be called the Pulaski House in their honor.
Mount Pulaski's efforts grew out of the need to spend $900 left over from a 2009 project by the Mount Pulaski Ryman-Fuiten American Legion Auxiliary Unit 447 to give Christmas gifts to community members in the military.
"They stepped up to the plate before anybody else did and got the whole community involved," Brownlee said.
Phyllis Beccue, membership chairwoman for the auxiliary, said the group decided to involve schoolchildren in providing kitchen items, and things snowballed from there until about $1,800 in additional cash donations came in. "People heard about it and wanted to be a part of it," she said.
The creation of North Street Commons and its scattered sites is financed by a Neighborhood Stabilization Program grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
D&O is renovating an apartment building and a house in the 900 block of West North Street as well as two-bedroom houses at three scattered sites. The bungalow at 1930 E. Johns Ave. is being completed first, with houses at 1626 E. Lincoln Ave. and 1437 E. Sedgwick St. to follow.
The plan is to have all the units finished and occupied by spring.
Lutheran Child and Family Services, meanwhile, has completed applications and begun providing services to 30 candidates for the housing, with the selection of who will move in depending on which veterans have the greatest need when the units are ready.
The agency and contractor hope to develop additional housing for homeless veterans down the road.
The Decatur Housing Authority will provide project-based rental assistance for the new units, meaning that if a tenant chooses to leave, the voucher will stay with the property and another homeless veteran can be helped.
Mavec said more than half of the people she's working with are from the Vietnam War era, but there are also a couple from the Korean War era.
"One guy came back from Afghanistan, and we got a call about him from the Salvation Army," said D&O owner Dan O'Loughlin. "He's sleeping in his car and wouldn't go into (the army's shelter).
"He said, 'Lady, I've been sleeping in the desert for nine months, so this is like being on vacation sleeping in my car,' and away he went."
Information from: Herald & Review, http://www.herald-review.com