Opposition to permanent supportive housing for the mentally ill in the Chicago suburbs

With the public discussion of mental illness in recent days, here is a look at trying to build housing for the mentally ill in the Chicago suburbs:

She would like to find a place close by, a place that’s affordable, a place that would provide independence and easy access to needed social services.

But local social service agencies and advocacy groups say that kind of housing — often referred to as permanent supportive housing — is rare in the suburbs…

Chicago-based Daveri Development Group, with help from agencies like the North/Northwest Suburban Task Force on Supportive Housing for Individuals with Mental Illness, has submitted three proposals during the past several years for supportive-housing developments in the suburbs — one in Arlington Heights, one in Mount Prospect and one in Wheeling.

Mount Prospect leaders approved Daveri’s plan in November 2011. That project, known as Myers Place, is expected to open at Dempster Street and Busse Road in the spring or summer of 2013.

The other two proposals, after encountering stiff resistance from neighbors, were rejected.

Many critics of those plans said the same basic thing: good concept, bad location.

The article goes on to talk about how several of these cases have gone to court. Despite the claims of opponents that their reactions are not based on fear, it is hard not to see this as a NIMBY situation: suburbanites living in typical subdivisions wouldn’t want such facilities near them. Saying it is a zoning issue sidesteps the problem; zoning is all about making sure different uses don’t mix and is often wielded in suburbs to protect more exclusive residential neighborhoods.

This leads to an interesting dilemma: what if the average suburbanite thinks such facilities would be good for helping deal with mental illness but no one wants to live near them?

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