Cape apartments for those managing mental illness nearly done

Thursday, June 21, 2012
Paul Amsden, left, and Russell Grassco wrap up their work for the day Tuesday, June 19, 2012 on a new $1.4 million 10-unit apartment complex for residents with mental illness in Cape Girardeau. The Community Counseling Center is building the complex with grant funds it received from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. (Laura Simon)

Construction crews are putting the finishing touches on a Cape Girardeau apartment complex designed to help those struggling to manage mental illness.

The vision for the Boehme-Hinni Apartments at 549 N. Silver Springs Road came from watching Community Counseling Center clients fail to find adequate housing, said John Hudak, executive director of the Cape Girardeau not-for-profit group.

The $1.4 million project -- 10 one-bedroom units in two buildings -- is scheduled for completion in late July or early August.

It's funded through a Section 811 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to provide housing for low-income people with disabilities.

"Without any question, one of the biggest needs they continue to have is safe, decent and affordable housing. It's just not available to our clients," Hudak said. "A person who is on Social Security disability by virtue of their mental illness just doesn't have a lot of discretionary money available when they're looking at a very, very small monthly check."

Those checks typically amount to $700 to $800 a month for the mentally ill clients the center works with, he said.

There are already 35 people on the waiting list for the 10 units.

Hudak said that in his experience with clients, some have apartments but only enough money to pay their rent and little else. Others, because of a lack of means, live in substandard conditions in undesirable areas, he said.

"A lot of people with chronic mental illness try to live with their families or live with friends, but that's always an iffy prospect. Things can happen," Hudak said.

Research shows that housing plays a role in recovery, he said.

"The trouble when people don't have stability in housing is they're constantly moving and being bumped around," Hudak said. "It's hard for them to establish a real continuity with treatment services that are available or ever really be integrated into the community that you're living in."

Patients need a sense of permanency and integration into a community for recovery to take place, Hudak said.

The units are intended to bring people together with a community room and common courtyard area.

"It's a community within a community," Hudak said.

The building is Energy Star-certified and incorporates energy-efficient LED lighting, insulation and appliances, all of which should help lower monthly utility bills, said Larry Ream, director of facilities for the Community Counseling Center.

Hudak said the location helps residents because it is near health care services, shopping and bus transportation.

"In theory, housing is part of their treatment," said Edwin Cooper, affordable housing consultant with the Missouri Department of Mental Health. "First of all, they have crisis in their life and that crisis is compounded when they don't find housing."

According to a 2011 report on the state of homelessness in Missouri prepared by the Homeless Project Research Team at St. Louis University for the Missouri Housing Development Commission, about a quarter of Missouri's homeless also suffer from mental illness.

In addition to providing the capital to construct the new housing complex, HUD will also provide a subsidy to residents living in the apartments to ensure they don't spend more than 30 percent of their monthly income on rent, Hudak said.

The apartment complex was named the Boehme-Hinni Apartments in honor of Jeannette Boehme and Evelyn Hinni and her son, Dr. John Hinni. Both Boehme and Evelyn Hinni were Perry County teachers and mental health advocates.

"They were instrumental in getting the first mental health tax levy passed in Southeast Missouri. They literally went door to door advocating for mental health services," Hudak said.

John Hinni served as president of the Community Counseling Center for more than 10 years. During the 1990s, he helped expand mental health services throughout the region.

The Boehme-Hinni Apartments is the second housing project the Community Counseling Center has taken on. Its first was the New Morning Apartments in Fredericktown, Mo., built in 2008. Both the New Morning Apartments and the Boehme-Hinni Apartments are managed by a third-party, HUD-certified management group.

The Community Counseling Center provides services to more than 7,500 people annually in Cape Girardeau, Bollinger, Madison, Perry and Ste. Genevieve counties.

Ream said he continues to look throughout the center's service area at sites for future housing projects.

It would be ideal to have housing units available in each of the center's five counties, Hudak said.

The Community Counseling Center is the first not-for-profit group to receive funding to construct a housing facility. Others, like Family Counseling Center, receive funds for rental assistance it passes on to clients.

mmiller@semissourian.com

388-3646

Pertinent address:

549 N. Silver Springs Road, Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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