Just go to Romeoville ... or Crest Hill

Serving the poor and troubled can be a problem

Romeoville is among the places Joliet City Manager James Capparelli suggested Volunteers of America Illinois should take its plan to build apartments for women recovering from substance abuse.

The VOA Illinois plan to build 42 apartments on the former Silver Cross Hospital campus in Joliet officially became dead Tuesday when it was taken off the City Council agenda. VOA Illinois wanted it off the agenda after a meeting with Capparelli that can be mildly described as dramatic as the city manager made plain he was against it and reportedly walked out of the meeting after reportedly telling the VOA representatives to go back where they came from.

They didn’t come from Romeoville.

And Romeoville wasn’t exactly what Capparelli meant when he told me after the meeting with VOA Illinois as he discussed its particular plan for social services, “If there’s a regional demand, maybe they should build it in Romeoville, like Catholic Charities did.”


As Capparelli explained what he meant, it was clear he was referring to the Diocese of Joliet’s Blanchette Catholic Center, which actually is in Crest Hill at the corner of Division Street and Weber Road.

Perhaps you can forgive Capparelli for thinking it is in Romeoville, since Weber Road runs into Romeoville down the road and is turning into a seamless continuum of development that much of Will County has become.

Many of us can remember when Weber Road was a ride in the country. Now it’s becoming a stretch of developed land that includes the Blanchette Catholic Center, which houses the offices of Catholic Charities along with the home offices for the Diocese of Joliet.

That’s Capparelli’s complaint.

Catholic Charities moved its offices into a nice, new development in Crest Hill and left behind its social services, including the Daybreak Center for the homeless in Joliet.

Without getting into whether providing such services as housing for the homeless should be viewed as a negative, I can’t help but think back to 2012 when the Roman Catholic Diocese of Joliet announced it would move to Crest Hill without changing its name.

At that time, then-Joliet Mayor Thomas Giarrante objected to the move, and so did Crest Hill Mayor Ray Soliman.

The corner of Division and Weber, Soliman said then, was a prime commercial corner, and Crest Hill wanted to see private business there that would generate tax dollars for the city. Indeed, the Diocese of Joliet moved into buildings that had been built with the unfulfilled anticipation of attracting stores, restaurants and insurance offices.

All of those businesses generate tax dollars for cities. All the tax-exempt Catholic Church and tax-exempt VOA Illinois do is provide services for the poor and unfortunate.

You can see the problem.

Bob Okon

Bob Okon

Bob Okon covers local government for The Herald-News