ROGERS PARK — St. Anne’s Home, a longterm recovery home for women struggling with addiction, asked neighbors for their support in expanding their operation from eight to 15 beds at a community meeting Tuesday.
The expansion would not include any physical construction. Instead, St. Anne’s is seeking a special use permit which would require a zoning change. Although the decision ultimately rests with the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals, neighborhood sentiment and the recommendation of Ald. Joe Moore (49th) can influence the board’s decision.
The home had previously been run by Lawrence Hall Youth Services, serving teen girls who were wards of the state. The home had trouble managing its residents, and after several complaints to Moore’s office, it ceased operation at the site.
When St. Anne’s took over the home, Moore asked them to operate in a limited capacity to prove they could be good neighbors before coming back for a zoning change to expand.
Since opening their doors in 2017, St. Anne’s has operated without any issue, according to Moore and neighbors.
Although some neighbors had questions and minor concerns Tuesday night, there was mostly support for the project — especially from nearby neighbors.
Scott Crouch lives next door to St. Anne’s home. He spoke passionately in support of the project, bringing some of the St. Anne’s representatives to tears.
Crouch said he supports the home on principle. He pointed out that St. Anne’s had been “excellent neighbors” ever since moving in.
“The residents have never been disruptive. I am glad they are my neighbors.”
Granting the expansion is in line with Rogers Park’s values of inclusiveness and diversity, Crouch said.
“I’ve never lived in such an inclusive neighborhood with such compassionate neighbors,” he said. “Even if our block were to endure some hardship by the home expanding, I think it would be well worth it in order to give these folks an opportunity to live in a place as special as our neighborhood, as they continue their journey of recovery and self-improvement.”
Some neighbors worried about logistics. One neighbor raised concerns that St. Anne’s might grow too quickly and be unable to handle the increase of women.
But Billie Williams, manager of the home, said St. Anne’s would gradually ramp up the number of women served on site. They also plan to add an additional staff member to help with the added capacity.
Williams pointed out that the women served at St. Anne’s have already put in hard work before coming to the home. The women need to be at least 28 days sober and need a referral from another agency. Once at St. Anne’s, women attend outpatient treatment, perform chores around the house and eventually get jobs.
Only women who are serious about recovery are offered a bed, Williams said.
Another neighbor worried about St. Anne’s financial standing. Representatives assured the neighbor they were on solid financial ground. Mother Superior of St. Anne, Sister Judith Marie, joked that nuns have a knack for fundraising.
“If we don’t have the money I know how to beg,” she said, eliciting laughs from the crowd.
Another neighbor, who lives next door to the home, said she is a social worker who has visited many group homes that were either poorly run or in complete disrepair. She supports St. Anne’s expansion because, in her opinion, they have been operating flawlessly.
“That is not you guys,” she said.
Ald. Moore said he would take neighbors comments into consideration and make a recommendation soon.
Alderman-elect Maria Hadden also attended the meeting. Moore took the time to congratulate Hadden on her recent win and offered her the chance to speak following his remarks.
Although Hadden declined Moore’s invitation to speak, she said she supports the expansion.
“After researching the history, speaking with neighbors and hearing the concerns met last night, yes, I am [in support of the expansion],” she said.
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