The once-thriving town of Cairo, Illinois, could soon become a ghost town, however Tuesday’s visit from Ben Carson, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development secretary, gave the residents hope.

Earlier this year, HUD announced two public housing units, the Elmwood and McBride subsidized housing complexes, would be demolished.

But despite the area’s deplorable living conditions including being infested with rodents and bugs, the heating and plumbing not functioning and the high crime in the area, residents are putting up a fight about leaving, saying it would leave the small community of Cairo a ghost town in the wake.

Tuesday, Carson paid the town a visit to listen to the local residents, according to an article by Kirk Siegler for npr.

From the article:

“There is a big problem here,” Carson said at a hastily organized forum in the high school gym. “We have to do everything that we have the ability to do to fix it.”

Earlier this year, Carson's department announced it would close rather than repair the Elmwood and McBride housing projects. Residents there have long complained of squalor living conditions following years of alleged mismanagement by the scandal-ridden Alexander County Housing Authority.

Carson assured the residents HUD would do everything in its power to help residents remain in Cairo. The agency has not yet given the residents a move-out date.

From the article:

In an isolated town like Cairo, it is unclear where folks will go once the projects are demolished. Of the estimated 400 people affected, only 10 families have thus far found new housing, according to HUD.

The closure of the projects, where many of the remaining residents of Cairo live, has drawn national attention. The predominately African-American, rural town used to be a thriving port at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. But decades of corruption, economic upheaval and racial tension led it to become one of the fastest depopulating communities in the nation.

One local activist explained he had hope for the first time in years after meeting with the HUD Secretary Tuesday.

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