Last week in Kankakee, Illinois, Mercy Housing Lakefront and its partners celebrated the grand opening of River Station Senior Residences, which features 70 one-bedroom homes for low- and moderate-income residents over the age of 55. The completion of any project that preserves or expands the supply of affordable homes is cause for celebration because it represents a victory in one of the most pressing challenges we face in this country: the lack of quality housing for low- and moderate-income Americans.
Millions of people are affected by this, limiting their ability to live happy, healthy lives. Every day is filled with hard decisions about whether it’s more important to pay the rent on the first of the month or to buy a new coat for a growing child when the weather turns in the fall; to keep the heat on or to visit the doctor to treat a chronic health condition. Ultimately, these choices erode the dignity of those making them and trap them in a cycle from which it is extremely difficult to escape.
Anyone experiencing this is deserving of assistance, but this is particularly true of the seniors in our communities, many of whom have worked hard for decades but been unable to climb the ladder of economic mobility. As we age, we all hope for a few important things: physical health, financial security and the ability to live independently as long as possible. Without a stable, affordable home, these things are not possible.
In the years ahead, as our country experiences one of the largest demographic shifts in its history, the impact of this will become more and more clear. By 2035, the number of seniors earning less than 80 percent of the area median income will nearly double to 27 million, and as this occurs, so too will the demand for additional affordable, safe housing that incorporates supportive services.
River Station is an innovative example of how we can meet this demand and provide seniors across the country with the opportunity to live independently, with dignity. River Station includes amenities such as a computer lab, fitness room, in-unit laundry and bike storage facilities, adjoins a planned greenway along the Kankakee River, and is within walking distance of a grocery store, commercial businesses and religious institutions.
In addition, River Station fully integrates health and housing with the inclusion of an onsite health clinic facilitated by Presence St. Mary’s Hospital, which will serve residents as well as members of the community. The clinic is part of the hospital’s ambulatory care strategy, providing a convenient, inviting atmosphere in which to receive primary care services that can be delivered at a much lower cost than services within the hospital.
For River Station residents, it will provide easy access to health services that allow them to successfully age in place. This will benefit people like Lisa Hanley, who was the first person to apply for a lease at River Station last September. Ms. Hanley was so excited at the prospect of living at River Station that she arrived to the leasing office at 3:30 am on the morning MHL began accepting applications. As a retired nurse, Ms. Hanley knows well the importance of quality healthcare and housing.
In the broader community, River Station is the cornerstone of neighborhood stabilization and revitalization efforts in the city’s West Downtown District. Prior to the start of construction, the site where River Station now sits contained blighted properties that prevented further development in the area. Today, with a modern, high-quality facility anchoring the neighborhood, it is poised for growth that would not be possible otherwise. Mercy Housing Lakefront’s mission is to create stable, vibrant and healthy communities, and River Station is a shining example of how this is accomplished.
To view additional photos from the grand opening of River Station, please visit our Facebook page.