|Cairo, Ill. (Best Places map)|
Nena Ellis, a 38-year-old mother of three who lives in one of the developments slated to be demolished, told Davey, “For sure they needed to fix this place up a long time ago. But there’s really nowhere else for us to go around here — even with a housing voucher, there just aren’t other places. Are we all supposed to just scatter to other cities — to big cities? Our kids grew up in Cairo. Our memories are in Cairo. And if you take this place out, it’s knocking everything else down in Cairo with it.”
Cairo has "no functioning grocery store or gas station, and a main thoroughfare with an ornate, arching entry that reads 'Historic Downtown Cairo' but one that features shuttered storefronts, vacant lots and, on a recent day, not a person in sight," Davey writes. "Cairo is in the triangle where the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers meet. Lewis and Clark once camped near here, and the city was cited in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as a wished-for destination that would offer access to the Ohio River and a route north, away from slave states. But in the past half-century, Cairo was better known for racial strife — riots in the 1960s and a tense transformation that followed, from a majority-white city to a mostly black one."
|Public housing in Cairo, Ill. (New York Times photo)|
Ben Carson, secretary of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, "said he understood the devotion that residents have to their hometown, but the circumstances, including a 'nearly bankrupt' local housing authority, made moving families the best immediate option," Davey writes. Carson wrote to the local school superintendent, “Despite our best efforts, we know that some families, your students included, may have to move outside of Cairo. My hope would be that they never forget their Cairo roots and the inspiration you’ve provided.”