The Chicago Tribune reported Wednesday that the closing of a small residential program for the mentally ill at the Austin YMCA has raised neighborhood concerns over the future of the deteriorating building and the community center it houses.
A YMCA spokeswoman denied that there are plans to tear down the building, sell it or close the facility at 501 N. Central Ave., but she stopped short of making any blanket assurances about the future. (This week’s story comes weeks after our partners at the Austin Weekly News broke the news about the mental health program being shut down and it comes after Austin YMCA Executive Director Cyril Nichols left his job.)
Lorrie Jones, director of the Division of Mental Health for the Illinois Department of Human Services, oversaw funding for the 29-unit residential program. She told the Tribune that staff cited maintenance as an ongoing issue.
“I do think they were looking for a buyer” for the building, Jones said. She said officials referred to a “redefined focus of the YMCA’s strategic plan” as the reason for closing the program.
A spokeswoman for Mercy Housing Lakefront, which develops and manages low-income housing, said the organization has been in talks with the YMCA about the building for at least a year. “We are talking to them regarding the building that is being used for housing,” said spokeswoman Lisa Kuklinski, declining to elaborate.
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