Home Entertainment Arlington Heights officials say Maryville can house refugee girls at shelter

Arlington Heights officials say Maryville can house refugee girls at shelter

Arlington Heights officials say Maryville can house refugee girls at shelter

Neighbors of a Maryville Academy-run shelter in Arlington Heights have expressed concerns about plans to temporarily house refugee children there, but village officials say the social service agency is allowed to do it.

The Des Plaines-based organization received the Arlington Heights village board’s approval in July 2022 to open the home at 800 N. Fernandez Ave. in the former Sisters of the Living Word convent and offices.

Under an agreement with the federal Administration of Children and Families and Office of Refugee Resettlement, Maryville was set to host as many as 16 girls ages 12 to 17 who come to the United States as unaccompanied minors. The girls would have been allowed to live there until age 18.

But Maryville officials learned late last year the contract was canceled, prompting them to pursue a different arrangement administered by state and federal agencies, including U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The Arlington Heights shelter is still scheduled to host female refugee children, but their length of stay is now expected to be shorter — from seven days up to a year, village officials said.

That might mean more frequent turnover at the shelter, but no more than 16 occupants are allowed at one time, officials said.

Four residents who live next to the Maryville building on Kaspar Avenue questioned why the new plans didn’t come back to the village board for additional public scrutiny and review.

“This is a significant change to the operation of the home,” Wendy Wennerberg said at a village board meeting Monday. “The original approval was done based on the fact that it was a long-term housing community for these children and that they would integrate. Now it seems to be turned into a temporary transient shelter.”

Added neighbor Heather Hendrickson: “Especially because of the short-term nature of this, this isn’t conducive to a neighborhood setting.”

But village officials said Maryville’s latest plans are still in line with the special use permit approved by the board nearly two years ago.

“Nothing that they discussed (with us) rose to the level of being a violation of or running up against the special use,” said Village Manager Randy Recklaus. “If anything, we felt it was more in compliance with the conditions of the special use than what was originally contemplated.”

Recklaus said the shelter will still host the same number of girls, but their stays are expected to be shorter. They won’t attend schools in Arlington Heights, but receive education at Maryville’s main campus in Des Plaines instead.

Similar to the original proposal, residents of the shelter won’t be able to leave the property on their own, Recklaus said.

Charles Witherington-Perkins, the village’s director of planning and community development, added that Maryville must still comply with five conditions of the July 2022 approval, including a provision for 24/7 staffing.

“We looked at this and we vetted it and we felt it still complied with that definition (of shelter care) and that special use they received,” Perkins said.

He noted the village approval for the Fernandez Avenue property is only applicable to Maryville, and not transferable to another user.