THEBES, IL (KFVS) - Representatives from the offices of Illinois Senators Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin saw firsthand on Friday, March 9 the status of two public housing complexes in Thebes.
The three staffers initially visited the town to have a discussion with people who lived there about the Department of Housing and Urban Development's decision to close Mary Alice Meadows and Sunset Terrace.
After the idea of touring the homes was brought up Earlene Lyons, who moved to Thebes from Cairo, Ill. in August, thought of great way to enhance the experience from just a walk outside.
"I said well I'm just going to invite them in my house," Lyons said. "I'm going to fight tooth and nail for this housing project, and if they see what these houses look like maybe it will take it on further. Seeing that it is not destroyed. It is 100-percent better than Cairo."
Lyons mentioned to the group that she felt her home is safe, secure, has better utilities, is free of mold, and even recently has a roof installed.
"The majority of them are like this," Lyons said. "They might need minor repairs. I think there are three homes that need major repairs, but most of them are like this."
Senator Tammy Duckworth's office issued this statement this statement of support:
"The Senators are closely monitoring the situation in Thebes and are committed to doing whatever they can to help the residents of the public housing complex. Today's meeting was evidence of that commitment."
Village clerk Stormy Easton said the future of Thebes is in jeopardy if the public housing is torn down, but that the meeting furthered the conversation and had many takeaways.
"I would like to see more estimates done. Maybe they can repair things for a smaller price," Easton said. "Maybe they can focus on a few buildings and move people out of the apartments that are in bad shape. Some middle ground option so many people don't have to be uprooted, our town doesn't have to lose ten percent, our school doesn't have to lose ten percent."
The population in Thebes continues to shrink down to under 500 people, and Easton said they're barely inching by with the resources they have left.
"We have things that are falling apart," Easton said. "Our utility systems are old. They're needing updates and repairs and we just don't have the money to fix it. We're just constantly losing money, losing residents, which is losing utility customers."
Lyons is glad she participated Friday and is hoping that more visits happen later this year.
Only 13 people were in attendance and Lyons is also encouraging her neighbors who live in the HUD housing units to share their perspectives on the issue.
"Because if you want to stay here you need to come to the meetings and voice your opinions," Lyons said. "I think it's crazy for them to knock these house down that are livable. The town needs it, and let it grow. Quit knocking stuff down and not repairing it. Quit making these little towns ghost towns."