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Project to house homeless female vets; Doll Smith behind project in Ford Heights shuttered housing development

Thursday, November 07, 2013

A shuttered housing development in the far south suburbs may soon become a source of hope for local veterans. It might even help breathe new life into a community and the person behind the project says she just wants to help.

With the help of volunteers, clean-up is underway at what is slated to become the Smith Residences Veterans Village in Ford Heights. It will house homeless female veterans. It looks rough now, but Doll Smith has a grand plan for it.

"That is our goal and mission, to help the veterans, give them a gated area, secure area and help Ford Heights," said Smith, the founder of Doll, Inc.

The 96-unit townhouse development will offer one to five bedroom spaces. There will also be a child care center and supportive services for veterans.

"We are taking the five bedrooms and making SROs out of them for homeless female veterans so they can go through the program so they can come back to society and then they'll be transitioned to a permanent apartment," she said.

The development was formerly low-income housing operated by Cook County. The county closed the property almost three years ago. It recently deeded the 24 buildings for one dollar to Smith's non-profit, Doll, Incorporated. The social service agency hopes to help revitalize the community.

"Some of the things we're trying to do out here is get an Aldi or a Sav-A-Lot closer to the property line cause Ford Heights does not have a grocery store of its own," said Nicole smith, Dolls, Inc. program director. "We're working with the city to help them develop an economic development plan to drive more business to the area because they don't even have a McDonalds in Ford Heights."

Smith and her small staff work from home, but they will soon be moving their administrative headquarters to Woodlawn. The Chicago City Council recently voted to lease this decommissioned firehouse to the veterans' group. While this is smith's largest real estate undertaking to date, she says it's well worth the effort.

"My son is a veteran. My husband is a veteran. My dad was a veteran. My nephews are veterans. So I'm part of the veteran family," Doll Smith said.

Completing the project will cost about 18-million dollars. The group is actively raising money to cover costs. They hope to have the first families moved in by December 2014.

For more information: www.thesmithresidences.com

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