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Champaign County

Affordable housing may soon be harder to find for some Section 8 renters

By Matthew Schroyer/For CU-CitizenAccess -- With budgets crimped by dismal job prospects and the cost of living ever-increasing, more and more Champaign families are in need of federal housing assistance.

The demand has hit the local housing authority so hard that the wait list for Section 8 vouchers, which pays for rental housing for needy families, had to be closed. Hundreds in Champaign County now wait for the subsidy, also known as Housing Choice Vouchers (HCVs).

CU-CitizenAccess/File photo.

Cherry Orchard still open for business despite health and safety problems

By Pam G. Dempsey,, and Sean Powers, Illinois Public Media - An apartment complex south of Rantoul continues to be open for business despite numerous health and safety issues, a pending public health case and county nuisance violations.

Though occupancy at the property, known as Cherry Orchard, is unknown, public health officials estimated at least eight single men continue to live there and have noted several cars parked outside apartment buildings. 

Acton Gorton/The entrance to Cherry Orchard apartment complex. The landlords of the property are scheduled to stand a bench trial today in a three-and-a-half year old civil case filed by the Champaign-Urbana Public Health Department. The landlords are accused of failing to repair an illegal septic system on the property.

Witnesses tell of ongoing sewage problems at Cherry Orchard

By Dave Hinton/Rantoul Press editor — An official with an Urbana wastewater treatment company said he saw raw sewage on top of the ground and children running through it at an apartment building complex.

Steve Johnson, president of J&S Wastewater Systems Inc., testified this week in the trial of Eduardo and Bernard Ramos, managers of Cherry Orchard apartments, located between Rantoul and Thomasboro.

The bench trial before Judge John Kennedy is expected to wrap up Monday at Champaign County Courthouse. The Ramoses, who are representing themselves, will present defense testimony.

Acton Gorton/ Gutters hang off an apartment building at Cherry Orchard complex.

New clinic offers free health care option to uninsured

By Jenn Kloc/ For CU-CitizenAccess — Irfan Ahmad had a problem. He saw people in his community who couldn’t afford what he considered a basic human right — health care.

The engineer did what many would do to address a difficult problem: he reached out to members of his local religious community to find a solution together.

The idea for the Avicenna Community Health Center was born, but Ahmad and others at the Central Illinois Mosque and Islamic Center knew they couldn’t do it alone. They collaborated with local hospitals, clinics and community members to construct a strong foundation for their free clinic.

Courtesy photo/Avicenna Community Health Center/ A patient has her blood pressure and temperature checked

Cherry Orchard resident finds relief in move

By Dave Hinton/Rantoul Press — Hermalinda Cruz moved out of her apartment Thursday afternoon.

That’s not a newsworthy event under most circumstances. But for Cruz, it took a bit of courage and came with a sense of relief as she exited unsafe and unsanitary surroundings.

Cruz and three of her children were among the residents living at Cherry Orchard apartment complex in rural Rantoul, in conditions that Julie Pryde, administrator of the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District, called “appalling.”

CU-CitizenAccess/file photo. Cherry Orchard apartments.

Cherry Orchard residents find new temporary home

By Illinois Public Media News— Health officials are moving forward with a plan to transfer residents living in Rantoul’s Cherry Orchard apartments to new homes.

This is in response to health concerns that have marred the apartment complex for nearly two and a half years. Health inspectors learned in Sep. 2007 that there was something wrong with the Cherry Orchard apartments after discovering sewage seeping from a septic system into nearby farmland. Since then, there have been reports of mold, inadequate heating, and power outages.

The landlords of the property, Bernard Ramos and his father, Eduardo, promised that by late last year they would address the septic tank issue by moving tenants into housing units that were up to code.

Courtesy of the Champaign Public Health District/ An ariel map of Cherry Orchard, an apartment complex south of Rantoul.

Struggling to survive

By Jhane Reifsteck—The town of Longview has faced a high povery rate and loss of business in recent years.

In the 2000 Census, Longview's povery rate was just over 15 percent, with 25 of the 160 residents living at or below the poverty level.

CU-Citizen Access/With less than 200 residents and shrinking business, Longview has one of the highest rate of poverty in Champaign County.

Local public defender's office juggles more work with less resources

By Dusty Rhodes/Anyone who has ever watched Dragnet, Hill Street Blues or Law & Order can recite the Miranda warning – "You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say or do can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you."

 It's the classic line signaling that the alleged bad guy is in custody, the crime has been solved, and the credits are about to roll. For public defenders, however, that line is where the work begins: They are the attorneys appointed to represent the poor crook in cuffs.

Dusty Rhodes/ Randall Rosenbaum, Champaign County chief public defender, puts in extra hours on the weekend.

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