US Senator Dick Durbin visited Cairo Junior and Senior High School at the southern tip of the state on October 10, telling students he supported their efforts to improve housing options for families there in the wake of HUD’s decision in April to tear down two housing projects, WPSD-TV (NBC affiliate) reports.
Seventh graders at the school wrote letters to Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, the station reported, asking him to save the town’s public housing and keep dozens of students in Cairo’s schools who truly want to stay there.
The McBride and Elmwood housing complexes in this town at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers provides homes for about 200 families, and if they have to leave, the school district would lose a few dozen students for sure.
One seventh grader told the station he wasn’t sure where he’d go if the housing complexes are torn down. “Still in Cairo, but if we have to, we’re going to move somewhere close like Metropolis or Carbondale or Marion,” he was quoted as saying.
About 40 of the 200 families have already left, which equates to a school district loss of 57 students, the station reported, citing Cairo Superintendent Andrea Evers. If HUD tears down the complexes without rebuilding, more students would undoubtedly leave, and so would the money those students bring in for the district.
“You know, when it’s all said and done, if we still have over 100 families saying ‘We want to stay in Cairo,’ then that makes a pretty strong case for doing something here. And I’ll do everything I can to help make that happen,” Mr Durbin said.
Video shows many parts of the housing complexes in states of disrepair. Mr Durbin said it would probably be better to invest money in building new housing for residents than to throw money into units that are too far gone to be brought back.
Mr Durbin was in Southern Illinois also to visit the VA Medical Center in Marion, saying he had received information that the center was being managed badly.
“We owe each and every veteran a great debt of gratitude, and their health care needs should be treated with the utmost care and attention at VA medical centers across the country,” he said in a press release. “Allegations of personnel mismanagement that are impacting patient care at Marion VA Medical Center are extremely concerning to me, especially given the history of mismanagement at this facility. I will continue to hold Marion VA accountable for implementing true management reforms that enhance the quality of care for our nation’s heroes and protect whistleblowers.”
Mr Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois, serves as the Democratic Whip, the second-highest ranking position in the Senate for the Democratic Caucus. His Democratic colleagues in the Senate have elected him to this leadership post every two years since 2005, and he’s only the fifth Illinois senator in history to serve as a Senate leader—the fourth as whip.