Phoenix Apartments Open in Herrin

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By Evie Allen
By Andy Shofstall

HERRIN -- A housing project opens in Herrin despite some controversy about who will be living there.

Managers held an open house Thursday for the new Phoenix Apartments. They offer supportive housing for veterans, people with mental illness, and those recovering from substance abuse.

The project has made some neighbors uncomfortable because former prison inmates could be among the residents.
 
The Southern Illinois Coalition for the Homeless has been working on this project for several years.
All the tenants have gone through a strict screening process. The group doesn't expect any problems.
 
The Illinois Housing Development Authority invested $1.6 million to build the facility.  All tenants must have a job or some sort of income and a disability, which could include substance abuse.     
Some may be former criminal offenders.
 
"They don't have to be homeless, they can be homeless. There's provisions for that. They can be someone who has come through a halfway house and needs a place to live," said Sharon Hess with SICH.
 
The complex features eight single-bedroom apartments with support services, including job training, counseling and life skills development. Administrators say workers will be at the site Monday to Thursday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. 
    
"Myself, the case manager and the property manager all have emergency cell phones. So if something were to happen after hours or on the weekends, we're all available," says case worker Dorian Bearden.
 
But the lack of 24 hour supervision is a problem for some neighbors who have been speaking out against the project since it was first announced two years ago.
 
"There's no one there to watch them over night when they're going to go out and drink, get drunk, stumble across over on my property," said Eddie King at a 2012 city council meeting. 
 
The Southern Illinois Coalition for the Homeless says neighbors have no reason to worry. Tenants are trying to rebuild their lives and move away from government support.
 
"This is exactly what some of them could really use just to push them over the top and have them succeed," said SICH board president Paul Matalonis.
 
No sex offenders or criminals convicted of violent crimes will be allowed at the facility. Six tenants are now living at the Phoenix Apartments. Two of them are veterans.
 
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