From the left Patti Schonauer, Kim Turner, Tom Funk

Hope on 5th board members share a first year review of the project to benefit at risk individuals and families

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[July 08, 2024]    Itís been one year since the former Lincoln College building on 5th Street, now known as Hope on 5th, was reported on by Lincoln Daily News.

With lots of new updates to report, Regional Housing and Support Services (RHSS) board members Kim Turner, Patti Schonauer, and Tom Funk gave LDN a walkthrough of the facility, as well as a rundown of the facilityís progression. Also on the RHSS board is Nadia Klekamp, Dea Welsh, Lori Jackson, and, formerly, Joe Schaler.

Hope on 5th is currently operated by the Regional Housing and Support Services (RHSS) non-profit.

To bring better understanding of where Hope on 5th is now, here is a brief history. In 2023 Central Illinois Veterans Commission (CIVC) helped acquire the building. Before the 5th St. building was to be sold, a non-profit organization, or 501c3, was needed for the sale to be made. CIVC, being an already established non-profit, stepped in to help. The RHSS was still being established when the building was being acquired, so the CIVC became the stand in 501c3 until RHSS could take over. In early 2024, RHSS took over and currently operates Hope on 5th.

When asked about the CIVCís current level of involvement, Turner shared that it was very little officially. There are many members of the CIVC, however, who have been very supportive of Hope on 5th. There have been some CIVC members volunteering time to help get the facility up and running, and some of the RHSS board members are also members of the CIVC board, such as Schonauer and the late Joe Schaler."

There are ongoing discussions about future opportunities to develop partnerships between RHSS and CIVC. Hope on 5th presents an opportunity to help people along their housing journey, including veterans.

Speaking of Schaler, before his passing, he commissioned a section of wall in the facility to be painted with the facilityís new name. This newly painted wall can be seen immediately upon entering through the front entrance of Hope on 5th.

This mural is not the only part of the building to be updated in the last year.

The first thing the RHSS board members showed off was the kitchen. Last year, the kitchen was being looked at as a potential space for businesses to rent out but was still filled with many things left behind by Lincoln College. Today, the kitchen has been cleared, remodeled, and approved by the Logan County Department of Public Health. While they are still in need of many kitchen utensils, such as pots and pans, spatulas, etc., they are now able to rent that space out.

Lincoln Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) has already moved into and is using the Hope on 5th building regularly.

A small kitchen area, a meeting room with tables and chairs, and the front porch is the designated Lincoln AA space. From what the RHSS board members shared, AA is using that facility regularly and had a guest speaker meeting recently with over 50 people in attendance.

Land of Lincoln Legal Aid (LLLA) is another organization that, with an office space in the Hope on 5th facility. The LLLA provides legal services to low-income members of Central and Southern Illinois. Funk shared that their services usually relate to domestic and family matters.

While this next update is not yet set in stone, Hope on 5th is attempting to get a contract with Carle Health for a clinic that will also offer addiction services. Recently, LDN reported on a decision by the Logan County Board to provide Hope on 5th with $100,000 of funding. The first $45,000 is being provided with no qualifiers, but the other $55,000 will come after the RHSS secures a contract with Carle Health. While the board members are hopeful about this contract, it is still very early in the process. Once a contract is secured, the additional county funding will help cover the costs of buildouts that have been requested by Carle.

Besides the money the Logan County Board has agreed to provide for the facility, Hope on 5th has received a lot of funding from other sources. They secured a $100,000 grant from the Illinois Department of Veteran Affairs, $50,000 from the Woods Foundation, and $10,000 from Eaton Corp. So far, approximately $42,000 of work has been put into the building, including WiFi and a new HVAC system.

In addition to all of these updates, the board members shared two model rooms that have been staged to show what they would look like once people begin moving in.

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One of the rooms was staged as if a veteran were living there. The bed had a red, white, and blue flag on the bed, a mini fridge, a microwave, and a bathroom with a shower.

The other room was staged as if a single mother with children were occupying it. There was a regular twin sized bed as well as a bunk bed. This room also had a mini fridge, microwave, and bathroom with a shower.

While no one is living in the facility yet, the entire north wing is finished being renovated and is ready for people to start moving in. This, however, cannot happen until two more things are finished: security and rules. To ensure the safety of those staying in the building, RHSS is planning on installing a security system in the building. This will keep the residents safe from any potential outside threats. Rules are needed to help maintain the safety and stability of anyone inside. RHSS shared that they have been mulling over many ideas of how the rules will look, and are making some headway in that regard, but they are not ready yet. They also shared that they have renovated a room for a Resident Advisor staff member to reside in at times that other staff members are not on hand. This way, they can ensure that someone is on hand all hours of the day and night.

Once everything is ready for people to start moving in, Turner shared that the first people they are hoping to have move in are veterans. Turner additionally shared that they hope to become a feeder facility to the tiny homes that CIVC has been creating throughout Logan County. The RHSS board members stated they are hoping to have some veterans moving in by the end of this year.

On the second floor, a meeting room has been set up and is currently being used for weekly veteranís meetings.

On the first and third Wednesday of each month, Operation Veteran Social meets here from 6-7 p.m. as a safe space for veterans to connect with fellow veterans. On the second and fourth Wednesday of each month, Never Alone meets from 6-7 p.m. to help veterans recover from their experiences serving our country.

When asked about their next big step, the RHSS board members shared that getting rules, a security system, and veterans in the north wing are their next biggest steps. RHSS wants to get people moved in as soon as they can.

Hope on 5thís mission is to provide housing to anyone who is homeless or at risk of homelessness. Schonauer and Turner shared that homelessness can be the root of many other problems in peopleís lives. Even just the threat of homelessness can cause an immense amount of stress for someone. If Hope on 5th can take away that insecurity for someone, it allows them to be able to focus on any other issues they may have. This gives them the space they need to sort things out and start getting their affairs back in order.

If you would like to contribute to Hope of 5thís mission in Lincoln, you can do so with either your time or money. You can donate through a link on their Facebook page or message them there to see what ways you can volunteer.

There is also a fundraiser for Hope on 5th coming up at the end of July. Tickets for the fundraiser, being held on July 26th, can be purchased using the registration form found in Lincoln Daily News, or Facebook page as well. Tickets must be purchased by July 19th as space is limited. The fundraiser will be held at the Lincoln Banquet Center at 201 Madigan Drive. The doors will open at 6:00 p.m.

[Matt Boutcher]

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