New option for seniors

Catholic Charities names Hines residence facility after OP native

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By SHEILA BLACK HAENNICKE

This isn't the classified section, but here's a listing too important for the back end of the paper: One-bedroom apartments in newly-rehabbed building, convenient to public transportation and medical complex, secure campus-like setting, on-site social service coordination. Applications being taken now for March occupancy. If eligible, you'll never have to pay more than 30 percent of your adjusted income for rent. Ever.

The Bishop Goedert Residence is a 70-unit subsidized apartment complex located on the Hines Veterans Administration campus. Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago developed the project using federal funds, unflagging energy and a vision of quality, affordable housing for seniors living on fixed incomes.

Who is Bishop Raymond Goedert? A native Oak Parker and 1940 graduate of St. Giles Elementary School, he went on to a distinguished career as a priest, pastor, canon lawyer and administrator.

"It's in honor of a priest and bishop who has given over 50 years of service to the archdiocese," says William D'Arcy, division manager of the Catholic Charities Residential Housing Department and CEO of Catholic Charities Housing Development Corporation (CCHDC). D'Arcy's division created and manages the Bishop Goedert Residence.

Catholic Charities has a 75-year lease on the property, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD); and the Veteran's Administration (VA). With the Bishop Goedert building, there are now 14 Catholic Charities senior housing complexes in Cook and Lake counties.

Oak Park resident Larry Brozek is the associate division manager for Catholic Charities Residential Housing Department. Brozek was a driving force behind the Goedert project, one of the first in the nation under the VA's "Enhanced Use" initiative to revitalize old facilities. Managing a partnership between a large social service agency and two government departments requires sustained effort by all team members, public and private, but according to Brozek, the results are worth it.

"A good part of this building is serving those who gave so much for our country. It's giving back to the people who helped defend our nation," Brozek says. An architect by trade, he also appreciates the aesthetics of the development. "It will look elegant, like a market-rate building," Brozek adds.

Looking for applicants

Seniors interested in applying for an apartment at Bishop Goedert Residence do not need to be Catholic. However, they do need to meet the following criteria:

 Head of household is at least 62 years old

 Have annual income at or below these limits: 1 person $26,400; 2 persons $30,150

 Be able to care for themselves with or without assistance (some in-home assistance is allowed)

 Maximum household size: two persons (all units have one bedroom)

 Willing to be interviewed; provide all requested information and agree to third-party verification; be screened for credit and criminal history. All documentation is kept confidential.

 Though preference will be given to veterans, non-veterans are encouraged to apply.

"It's a great deal for seniors," says Elaine Layden, an asset manager for the CCHDC. "Everyone thinks you have to have nothing. ... They can have assets. All that is counted is interest from the asset."

This means applicants can include homeowners and those with some savings.

"For so many seniors, all they get is a social security check," says Michelle Wood, property manager. She explains how the rent per unit will never be more than 30 percent of the household's adjusted income: HUD allows deductions from income for medical expenses and utility costs, then calculates the 30 percent rent amount. "Everyone usually pays a different rent," she says.

For example, a senior who receives $600 in social security per month may have a rental charge of $170 after deductions. Residents pay separately for telephone service.

While the units can only house two occupants, HUD doesn't specify what constitutes a householdâ€"it could be a married couple, grandparent and grandchild; parent and disabled child; or two adults who live together.

All household income is considered, so if two adults receive Social Security or a grandchild receives disability payments, that income is also considered in determining the rent amount.

"Come and apply," says Wood. "The best time to get into senior housing, is at 'rent up,' [the opening of a building] because seniors don't move, they stay." It usually takes Wood about a week to call the applicant, and if they are eligible, approval usually comes within a month.

Continuum of care, park-like setting

"We will be renting in March," says Layden. "It's been a pretty quiet project because of where it sitsâ€"we're so well hidden there."

Usually when a building is developed in a neighborhood, people are well aware of its existence, and many are ready to apply for units. But the Bishop Goedert Residence has maintained a low profile due to its unique location on the Hines VA campus, with its main entrance at Fifth Avenue and Roosevelt Road. Opened in 1921, the Edward J. Hines Hospital is a memorial to a son from the Hines Lumber family who died in France during World War I.

At 147 acres, "Hines" encompasses the VA medical center, as well as Loyola Medical Center and the Stritch School of Medicine. An armory is found along Hines' southern boundary at Cermak Road. The Bishop Goedert Residence is located on Hines' eastern edge, not far from Loyola Hospital. The area is park-like with broad lawns and quiet streets that invite walkers.

"It will be safe and secure. After dark, the gate [at the entrance to Hines] is monitored, and there is also a 24-hour-monitored front desk in the building," says Layden. Hines is served by a PACE bus, and residents will be able to park their own cars in a lot next to the building.

"It's its own town," observes Wood. Indeed, Hines has its own zip code and police force, as well as a small commissary where residents can buy groceries and household goods, a canteen for snacks and even a few fast food restaurants. Seniors at the building will be bused to area grocery stores on a weekly basis. Medical care, especially for veterans, is a short walk away.

The facility isn't a nursing home, so residents' days will not be scheduled. However, there will be on-site assistance for those who need social services and group activities for everyoneâ€"health screenings, social events, craft classes and seminars held in the common areas.

Currently identified as "Building 53," a former psychiatric facility, the Bishop Goedert Residence at first glance looks just like the other brick, dormitory-style buildings that dot the grounds at Hines. On a recent January afternoon, the building was surrounded by mud, water and construction equipment, giving little indication of what a remarkable structure it is.

However, a peek through the ground-level windows reveals airy apartments with brand-new windows, walls and appliances and cherry-stained cabinets in the kitchen.

In a few months the mud outside the Bishop Goedert Residence will be replaced with grass and an outdoor patio. Residents will be moving in, and the west suburbs' best-kept senior housing secret will be public knowledge.

If you're interested, call for more information. To request an application for Bishop Goedert Residence, contact Catholic Charities Housing Development Corporation, at 312/655-7440; TTY 312/948-6992. Application materials will provide complete details about the application procedure.

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