My View, read at Kankakee City Council ⋅ Oct. 15, 2012⋅ 8:55 a.m.
Updated 11-13-2012 ⋅ Document links added to text read at City Council
Kankakee is about to make a decision approving the use of the former Senesac Funeral Home and Cremations site at 200 S. Washington (City changing to 210) into a group home leased by Nexus Indian Oaks Academy of Manteno, IL. It will house boys and young men from 17½ to 22 years of age in a transitional residence from which to complete their high school education, start college, and/or see them through their first job.
The residents are mostly aged-out foster children in need of a stable environment to prepare them for adulthood. Some have been abused, some acted on inappropriate sexual behaviors which lead to their treatment at Indian Oaks, some have emotional disorders they are learning to manage. And most of them have no support systems to help them go forward in life like most of us do: family who we can count on to help us grow.
The John Chafee Foster Care Independent Living Program helps youth leaving foster care by improving access to stable and safe housing; learning to manage their physical and mental health needs; promoting stable, permanent connections to caring adults; supporting economic success through education and employment programs; and by providing life skills training.
The funding for three years and sometimes more, is to provide those things through the experienced treatment and care of professionals like those at Indian Oaks Academy who have been providing care for all ages for many years.
Nothing about this national program’s details or intent says we should rub the noses of these youth in where-they’ve come-from so they get used to the idea that they’ll be going back there.
At the Planning Board meeting Mr. Francis Smith, Nexus Indian Oaks Board member (page 50), and Mr. Chavers, executive director of Indian Oaks Academy convinced most Planning Board members that real life meant a crappy life for these children. So Indian Oaks would be helping the youth get used to real life by living in an old funeral home in a very bad area like where they came from.
My inquiry into Indian Oaks Academy tells me they have been successful in their programs: I do not believe they use this negative anti-success attitude or they could not have helped all the children they’ve helped.
So why are we hearing this from so many people involved in pushing this sale?
Someone close to this project said to me, “What else can we do with this property? It’s Kankakee, and right now, there is nothing else.”
If there is nothing else, who could be paying the estimated $1 million in improvements that Mr. Chavers, has been talking about?
Neither he nor anyone else is stating which party to this sale will be paying that $1 million.
The current owners are, first, HomeStar Bank according to the City of Kankakee Planning Board Agenda Sept 18, 2012, whose Bank Chairman of the Board and Executive VP is Mr. Francis Smith according to the Nexus Board website.
Mr. Smith is also a Nexus Indian Oaks Board member, who seems to be an owner by default, listed as a defendant in the foreclosure case number 2010 CH 000192 which shows completed on the Kankakee County Circuit Court website.
Second owner seems to be Mr. Tim Klopp who appears to have inherited this property and is executor of the estate case number 2011 P 000282 which is still in probate according to the Kankakee County Circuit Court website. No reason why the owners would plan to make improvements, they just want to sell this property.
The likely new owner mentioned at the Planning Board meeting in September is Neighborhood Redevelopment LLC, who in the real world, is responsible for their own improvements for what I believe is their own private company. They also are not indicating that they will be the ones paying the $1 million bill.
The only funder mentioned in 30 days of talk is DCFS. If DCFS is being asked to fund these improvements, $1 million is a lot of the children’s money to use to bailout Mr. Francis Smith of HomeStar bank who has been hit hard by 7 years of a failing economy, like all of us.
Monthly, that $1 million comes out to DCFS paying on a 10 year contract roughly $8,000 per month. That’s a lot of rent for the privilege of watching hookers and open drug sales in front of your house; that’s a lot of rent for the privilege of ducking bullets; that’s a lot of rent for putting a boy into harms way to make him know he’s just not worth anything more than this.
That’s a lot of rent to violate the funding conditions of a really fine program.
All the people in this room, along with Indian Oaks Academy management and their Nexus Board of Directors, have the futures and the health of at least twenty young men at stake. Simple waves of the hand about possible toxic environments like they’re nothing, casual dismissals of problems with the neighborhood like they’re nothing, and lack of critical information about the financial arrangements behind the choice of Senesac Funeral Home are truly unacceptable.
We are all gathered in this room tonight thrown together by fate with the responsibility of shepherding these youth into a better life. We are all they have.
If we do not accept our responsibility to choose the best for them, a few of these boys may die. Perhaps not from bullets or from embalming fluid toxins, but from something far worse than even these: they may die because we cared so little when they needed us.
Emails received from the IL EPA and the IL Dept of Public Health
Planning Board Meeting Agenda 2012Sept18
Planning Board Meeting Minutes 2012Sept18