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Home of the Sparrow opens 11 homes for women and children

WOODSTOCK – Construction has finished on 11 affordable-housing units in Woodstock and Fox River Grove that will allow 40 women and children to move from homeless shelters into permanent homes.

In September, Home of the Sparrow, a transitional housing service for low-income women and children, partnered with the Housing Opportunity Development Corp. to renovate and build the affordable, low-rent homes. Three duplexes were built, one three-unit home was restored in Woodstock and one two-unit home was renovated in Fox River Grove.

John Jones, executive director of Home of the Sparrow, said the added housing is the next step for women and their children to get back on their feet.

“Our mission is to move women and children from homelessness to self-sufficiency,” Jones said. “One thing we discovered is that we had people staying 18 to 24 months in our shelters. The best practice is to get them back to self-sufficiency and move them out of those shelters more quickly.”

At an open house Thursday, Home of the Sparrow unveiled drastic improvements to the three-unit home in Woodstock. It was renovated throughout, and new furnaces, plumbing and electrical wiring were installed. The kitchen and bathrooms are new, and lead-based paint was removed. The roof and siding was replaced, and a porch was added.  

“The exterior looks so much nicer now,” said Richard Koenig, executive director of Housing Opportunity Development Corp. “It’s really an asset to the community.”

The $1.9 million project was paid for through the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program, which is administered by the Illinois Housing Development Authority. The new tenants will move from the shelters and into the units in mid-March, Jones said.

Debbie DeGraw, vice president of marketing and development for Home of the Sparrow, said churches and other homeless shelters can be unsafe for women and children. The new homes provide a safe environment for them, she said.

“[Women] don’t belong in shelters,” DeGraw said. “Little children with their parents do not belong in a shelter environment. That’s not a good environment. We’re working to provide a housing solution that’s safer for women and children.”

The permanent housing will allow the children to enroll in a school, DeGraw said, and they no longer will be pulled out and moved elsewhere because of uncertain living arrangements.

Home of the Sparrow and the HDOC, a nonprofit organization that develops affordable homes in Chicago’s northern suburbs, are looking to renovate other properties for other women and children in shelters.

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