Ben Carson, the brain surgeon and former Republican candidate appointed as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, has announced that HUD will shut down both public housing projects in Cairo, Illinois, a rural town in Southern Illinois. In a recent public conference at a high school gym, Carson pledged to help the residents he displaces, NPR reports.
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HUD has announced that the department will no longer construct new homes, but Carson still promises to help remaining residents who want to stay in the small town in any way he can. Residents wonder how he will help them when new housing hasn’t been constructed in 50 years. As of date, only 10 of the 400 displaced families have secured housing.
Ben Carson is the least qualified of any HUD Secretary appointed by a Republican President. The American Prospect reports that former Republican appointees had held prior leadership positions in government or housing agencies. In contrast, Carson is a neurosurgeon who Trump once called “pathological,” and his public comments about poverty and housing oppose HUD’s mission. When his appointment as HUD Secretary was still a rumor, his spokesman told The Hill, “Dr. Carson feels he has no government experience. He’s never run a federal agency. The last thing he would want to do was take a position that could cripple the presidency.”
Now, Carson threatens to “cripple” a community that was already on the brink of disaster, the report says. Cairo’s public housing residents are many of the city’s remaining population. The city has been in decline for decades, and it no longer has a gas station or grocery store. The city’s sole hospital was demolished in 1987. Still, remaining residents consider the city their home and don’t plan on leaving. Public housing resident Melvin Dixon told NPR that he would have to be dragged out of his community, and said that Carson’s latest comments were just “a political thing” that contradict his earlier communication with soon-to-be displaced residents. “He already sent a letter saying it’s unfortunate, but we can’t help you.”