Carson visits Cairo in wake of uproar over lost HUD housing
On a recent tour of southern Illinois, U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson vowed that "by the grace of God” the rural town of Cairo will be resurrected.
Carson came to the river town whose 2,600 residents have been up in arms by the destruction of two nearly century-old public housing complexes HUD deemed “deplorable.”
Hundreds of families have been displaced.
One day after visiting the similarly hard-hit East Chicago area, Carson sought to bring calm to Cairo by meeting with Mayor Tyrone Coleman and chatting with residents from the Elmwood and McBride housing complexes at a nearby high school.
“We decided to come take a look around and meet with leadership to be able to diagnose how things got so bad and how we move beyond,” HUD spokesman Jerry Brown told the Southeast Illinois News. “For the secretary, it’s about lessons. Cairo is a problem he inherited, but we’re looking to get people back to viability as soon as we can.”
Carson pledged to the crowd that he would take a holistic approach to dealing with the crisis. He insisted his primary goal will be ascertaining if the area still has the potential to attract private investors and partner with other government agencies to bring in new affordable housing.
“We don’t know yet if a conventional public-private partnership will work as well here because you have to have businesses nearby to help out, but we hope to figure it out real soon,” Brown said, adding that Carson envisions ultimately changing the entire model for public housing.
“What we hope to do is twofold,” Brown said. “We want to help families move toward and be self-sufficient so we can be able to help others and allow more families to use the services if they ever need to. Families being self-sufficient is what’s most critical to him.”