First residents could move into veterans home at 4250 N. Oak Ave. by early 2021
by BRIAN NADIG
The 200-bed veterans nursing home at 4250 N. Oak Park Ave. could have its first residents living there by early 2021, a dozen years after plans were first announced for the state-operated facility.
Governor J.B. Pritzker is tentatively scheduled to visit the site this week for a ribbon-cutting, marking about the fifth time public officials have gathered there to celebrate a facility that has faced multiple construction and budget delays. The pandemic also has slowed some of the facility’s preparation, including its staffing, according to the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
The Oak Park facility is the department’s fifth veterans home and first in the Chicago area. The other homes are located in Anna, LaSalle, Manteno and Quincy.
The first residents could move in as early as February, with a goal of occupancy starting no later than the end of the first quarter of 2021, according to department public information officer Bridget Dooley. Some of the residents could be transfers from other the state’s other four veterans homes, as requests to live in Chicago are expected, Dooley said.
Those interested in information on applying to live at the Chicago home are asked to contact its administrator T’Kira Siler-Wilkerson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To be eligible, an applicant must have been honorably discharged from the U.S. Armed Forces and have served during a war or have a service-connected disability or injury, with additional criteria for peacetime veterans. Admission also is based on the ability of the home to provide adequate care for the applicant’s needs, including having an available bed in the required category of care.
Those living in the home pay a monthly maintenance fee, which is based on their monthly income if they have one.
Actual construction of the home was underway in 2015 when then-governor Bruce Rauner refused to release the funds needed for the work to continue. At the time there was a budget stalemate between him and the Democratic-controlled legislature.
State Senator Robert Martwick (D-10) said earlier this year that despite pleas from him and other area officials, Rauner would not make an exception for the nursing home.
“It became a political pawn,” Martwick said. “There was always money in the budget to build it, but you need appropriations.”
After the budget impasse ended, a structural design error in the building’s foundation was discovered in 2017, leading to more delays.
The home is built on land that was part of the Dunning site, which was once the home of the Dunning Institute, known as an insane asylum, in the 19th Century. Its successor institute became known as the Chicago-Read Mental Health Center, which is operated by the state.
Much of the Read Center land was declared surplus by the state has been redeveloped during the past 20 years for residential, commercial, industrial and public uses, including the new Wright College campus.