Housing Authority of Champaign County developing community for individuals with special needs

by Shelbi Voss

Construction for Pinewood Place is underway as the Housing Authority of Champaign County prepares to open its doors this summer. The community is one of the HACC’s most recent projects and will provide housing for individuals with special needs.

Twenty-four one-bedroom units will be available at 1606 E. Colorado Ave. The project began with a groundbreaking ceremony in October of last fall. In 2018 the HACC received a $2.4 million loan to help support the project, which is intended to provide housing for those with mental, developmental and physical disabilities with no income and who are pending approval of Social Security benefits.

Five of the available homes will be reserved for the Statewide Referral Network, which links vulnerable populations (already connected to services) to affordable, available and supportive housing. Referrals are submitted to the SRN through various service providers by using a waitlist system. The remaining available units will be set aside for referrals from local township offices in Champaign County.

The housing will be spread across four separate buildings, with in-unit laundry, dishwasher and other kitchen appliances included in each unit. Other community amenities will be available, including computer stations and a community kitchen.

Residents will also have access to supportive systems including training on completion of daily tasks including cooking, housekeeping, laundry and budgeting. Services will also help residents focus on timely management of payment schedules such as rent, utilities, food and transportation. Community-wide activities will also be available, including computer courses, recreational activities and general health education.

The project is also an opportunity for a different HACC program to serve the community. Youth Build is a program funded by the U.S. Department of Labor. It provides job training and educational opportunities for disadvantaged community members between the ages of 16-24. Participants include those who are aging out of foster care, have dropped out of high school, have disabilities, are homeless and more. The program allows them to spend time on academic and career goals while gaining leadership experience and preparing for higher education. Counseling, support groups and future planning opportunities are also made available. Members complete community service tasks and gain hands-on work experience over an 18-month period.

Youth Build participants have worked on-site at the Pinewood Place project, learning from the construction workers about the process. The HACC is hopeful that it will be complete by July 2021.