Toni Preckwinkle, Cook County board president announces grant to Housing Forward as Lynda Schueler, executive director, looks on. (Provided)

A nonprofit that serves the Austin community recently received a significant grant from Cook County that will go toward its mission of addressing housing insecurity in the west suburbs and on the West Side. 

During a press conference July 23 in Oak Park, Cook County officials announced that Housing Forward was awarded a $100,000 grant through Cook County’s Justice Advisory Council (JAC). 

The grant is part of $1.5 worth of investments the county is making in community-based organizations through JAC “aimed at creating stable and thriving communities throughout Cook County,” county officials said in a statement. 

“We must invest in people and our communities if we hope to see positive change in our neighborhoods,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. 

“This approach has the power to transform Cook County communities affected by an array of destabilizing factors, including housing instability, unemployment, mental health and crime,” she said. “Housing is a critical piece of the puzzle in this regard — we believe housing is a human right and today, we are taking another step in ensuring that everyone has a safe, stable place to lay their head at night.”

“Affordable, stable housing is the lynchpin to thriving communities, especially in my district where so many of our Black and Brown families also struggle with unemployment, food insecurity and health care disparities,” said First District Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson, whose district includes Housing Forward. 

Lynda Schueler, Housing Forward’s executive director, said the JAC grant will help support the organization’s missions “and provides us with the space, capacity and flexibility to reach those goals.” 

Schueler said the JAC grant will help fund the organization’s array of support programs for individuals experiencing homelessness in the west suburbs. Those programs include wrap-around support for people experiencing housing instability and providing permanent housing for residents in the area. Schueler said Housing Forward serves nearly 2,000 individuals and families each year. 

The grant announcement comes on the heels of Housing Forward’s announcement in May that it plans on building 16 units of permanent supportive housing for individuals and families on a vacant lot at 1014-1020 W. Roosevelt Rd. in Broadview. 

In March 2020, the nonprofit entered into a 1-year lease with the Write Inn, the 65-room hotel in Oak Park, in order to provide temporary housing for its clients experiencing homelessness. 

“The leadership at Housing Forward pivoted on a dime early in the pandemic when our homeless needed to be housed immediately in order to keep them safe and others in the community safe,” said Oak Park Village President Vicki Scaman.

“This grant is a tremendous starting point for rebuilding lives and communities. The simple truth is that if you want solutions, you have to invest resources and provide opportunities to solve the problems. That is finally starting to happen,” said Illinois Senate President Don Harmon, Democrat from Oak Park.