The Coalition made great progress in 2018 toward making homelessness in Oak Park rare, brief and one time. Through the efforts of our five work groups, the Coalition has been able to provide affordable housing, jobs and education, community collaboration and public awareness to achieve our goal.

Some of the Coalition’s Greatest 2018 Accomplishments Include:

Affordable Housing

The Affordable Housing work group rolled out a new Flexible Rental Assistance Program (FRAP) that began in October. FRAP funding will be used to provide flexible financial support to help at-risk households maintain or secure stable housing. Services are intended to be time-limited and help individuals and families become stably housed. The Flexible Rental Assistance Program is funded by a two-year, $238,000 grant from the Village of Oak Park and administered by Housing Forward, with referrals coming from providers participating in the OPHC Service Intersections work group. 

In a partnership with the Oak Park Housing Authority and Housing Forward, the Affordable Housing group proposed to develop the community’s only Interim Housing Program that will serve as an intermediary housing placement and alternative to the PADS Emergency Shelter for single adults, couples and families with minor children. The Oak Park Housing Authority owns two residential buildings located at 324 North Austin in Oak Park, formerly known as the Raymond Showalter House, that will be used for the program. The property has two buildings – a front building with 5 apartment units and a 3-bedroom coach house on the back of the property. The Village of Oak Park has made an investment in the program by granting $168,000 for building renovations and a 5-year $268,000 grant for the program’s operations. Renovations will begin at the top of 2019 with a projected program launch in April. 

A new Community Builders development has been approved for 801 South Oak Park Avenue by a unanimous vote of the village board on October 15. The Boston-based non-profit developer will bring 37 new affordable housing units to Oak Park, intended for 70 mixed-income tenants, as well as retail space on the ground floor. The ground floor will also include two live/work units. A number of these units will be set aside for tenants with lower income, and six to seven units will be set aside for those with disabilities. Income ranges for tenants in the building will range from $10 to $17 per hour, or 30 to 60% AMI.

Service Intersections

In 2019, the Service Intersections Work Group will roll out a new online database system, the Health Connection HUB. The HUB is focused around a network of care, giving real-time waitlists for social services to help with tracking and outcomes, and making digital assessments available to case workers and clients. This new closed-loop referral database is funded by the Community Mental Health Board of Oak Park Township, River Forest Township and the Healthy Communities Foundation. The database is focused on ten social determinants of health: food, housing, transit, health, money, care, work/education, legal, seniors, and intellectual/developmental disabilities. Under these social determinants, the HUB lists thousands of programs offered across the region, allowing agencies to quickly access information, find resources and send referrals. The HUB is expected to largely expedite the referral process for housing needs, as well as linkages to behavioral health and other social services.

Jobs & Education

A new work group this year, the Jobs & Education Work Group has been developing and implementing a “Roadmap to Success”, which breaks down the need in our community, identifies the action necessary to fulfill that need, and focuses on the lasting impact that action will have. This is done by bringing together the people in our community that need jobs and providing them with education training, while also connecting them with potential employers. This “Roadmap” stems from the idea that individuals should be chasing a passion and taking steps towards that passion for lasting success in the work force.

Community Touchpoints

Roughly 100 children in Oak Park school districts are homeless. Through the new Families in Transition (FIT) program and data sharing agreements with D97 and D200, the OPHC will begin to address the needs of homeless families and children residing in doubled-up or precariously housed situations. The Oak Park River Forest Community Foundation provided a $10,000 grant to help fund the staff for delivering the Flexible Rental Assistance Program (FRAP) for these households. A pending Housing + Education grant from the Chicago Community Trust will be used, if awarded, to create the necessary processes and trainings within the districts to identify, refer and assist homeless children and their families in our community with critical financial assistance via the new FRAP to help these households re-gain housing.