Cairo mayor 'distraught,' 'frustrated' after HUD eviction notice for public housing

Cairo mayor 'distraught,' 'frustrated' after HUD eviction notice for public housing

CAIRO, IL (KFVS) - The Department of Housing and Urban Development announced that hundreds of residents in Cairo, Illinois must relocate from their current homes.

These residents are being required to move from Elmwood and McBride housing complexes because the properties are being demolished.

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Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth released the following statement on April 26 after the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced an eviction date for the individuals and families living at Elmwood and McBride housing complexes in Cairo, Illinois:

"It has been more than a year since HUD told 185 families that they must relocate from the Elmwood and McBride housing complexes in Cairo, Illinois, without any clear plan to rehouse those who would be displaced.  Around 35 of those families are still in the process of finding safer housing, and now they have been told by HUD that they have until June 30th to move or they will be locked out.  This is completely unacceptable.  Relocation is a difficult task as the low housing inventory in the town means that many relocated residents will be forced to leave their community and other family members.  We urge HUD to extend this deadline for cooperating residents and those that face additional hardships, and call on HUD to provide complete access to mobility and relocation specialists to the remaining families at Elmwood and McBride housing complexes to assist them in securing safe housing."

Cairo Mayor Tyrone Coleman talked to us on Friday, April 27.

He said he is distraught and frustrated about the whole situation and that there is no reason for this to be happening and it's just wrong.

He went on to say Duckworth and Durbin have been really pressing HUD and they are "literally throwing U.S. residents out in the street."

According to the mayor, the city is continuing to try to bring housing into the area and they're hoping to get some homes built by the end of the year.

One resident of Elmwood, Jacklyn Davis, told us earlier in April, "We don't want to leave Cairo, this is what we know."

The people who live in Elmwood and McBride housing complexes were all very shocked by the news they received on the night of Monday, April 10.

"Who wants to travel to this place and that place? C'mon now! They are breaking up a whole community for what? For what?" Davis wondered.

According to HUD, both complexes need to be demolished due to the living conditions.

"I'm lost for words," said Elmwood resident Lashana Johnson. "I was lost for words last night. I shedded a few tears. This is our hometown – this is where I was raised. I wasn't raised out here but I was raised in Cairo.  And I watched this area for so long. And for them to just say that they are going to tear it down. It's not right."

Cairo has nearly 2,400 total residents, this change would displace up to 25 percent of those people.

Cairo Mayor, Tyrone Coleman, was already planning ahead.

"We already started making phone calls and have one developer who says he's interested," Mayor Coleman said."That's my focus – is what we can do to being new housing in the city of Cairo. I don't want to deal with what has happened in the past that's the past. We have to plan now to move ahead."

Coleman worried that a lot of these families will need affordable housing, but there aren't many places to choose from in the city.

"It's just unbelievable that – we could be experiencing something like this in the greatest country on the face of the earth," Mayor Coleman said.

Residents were given the option by HUD on Monday, April 10 to sign up to work with Relocation Specialist to begin preparing to move.

There is currently not a specific date required for relocation but according to the Alexander County Housing Authority, they will contact each family affected within the next month.

U.S. Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth released the following statement after the HUD announced it would make housing vouchers available to residents of the Elmwood and McBride.

"After years of mismanagement and misuse of funds within the Alexander County Housing Authority, strong federal action is welcome to address the housing crisis in Cairo. This is a massive undertaking for HUD, and it will require close dialogue with local authorities and residents to mitigate the destabilizing effects of relocation – not only for the affected families but for the city of Cairo, which is already suffering the consequences of population decline," said the senators. "We urge HUD to continue to hold public meetings and ensure residents have a clear understanding of their options."   

HUD plans on handing out Tenant Protection Vouchers that will allow residents to move to a rental unit owned by individual landlords anywhere within the U.S. that uses a voucher program.

After receiving the voucher, families will have 120 days o find suitable housing with an optional 30-day extension.

They will also offer relocation counseling to the affected households.

Illinois Representative Mike Bost released this statement in regard to the recent incident:

"I have pleaded with HUD to continue working with us on solutions to sustain the city of Cairo and provide adequate and safe housing for its residents.  I remain in close contact with Mayor Coleman and other local officials as we do all we can to find opportunities for revitalizing and reinvesting in this community.  We're all working and praying for the best outcome for local families."

For more information, questions will be directed to the Alexander Housing Authority or the City of Cairo, Ill.

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