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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.

Problems persist at Rantoul-area complex

By Dave Hinton/ Rantoul Press
Inspectors for the Office of the Illinois State Fire Marshal were scheduled to examine a dilapidated apartment complex south of Rantoul Tuesday.

But there was one problem: The caretakers who were scheduled to open the Cherry Orchard apartment units for inspection apparently left the scene just minutes before the scheduled inspection.

Julie Pryde, director of the Champaign County Public Health District, said a county sheriff’s deputy stationed near the entrance saw who was believed to be Bernard and Eduardo Ramos leave about 10 minutes prior to the scheduled inspection.

Andrew Richards/Rantoul Press/ John Hall, Champaign County’s director of planning and zoning, aims his camera at a rail located in an apartment stairwell at the Cherry Orchard complex in rural Rantoul Feb. 15. The rickety rail was a code violation. Hall, along with Illinois fire marshal inspectors and the county’s health department, scanned for code violations at the complex’s eight buildings located in rural Rantoul.

Audio: Volunteers count local homeless population

Every two years during the last week of January, communities across the country try to answer a difficult question: How many people are living without permanent shelter?

This point in time survey is the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development’s effort to determine the number of homeless people nationwide and understand more about their characteristics.

CU-CitizenAccess reporter Dan Petrella went along Thursday night on this year’s count in Champaign-Urbana.

This story was produced in cooperation with Illinois Public Media.

Acton Gorton/CU-CitizenAccess/Restoration Urban Ministries is one Champaign-Urbana's homeless shelters. It doesn't receive funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Trial delayed in Rantoul-area apartment sewer case

By Pam G. Dempsey/CHAMPAIGN –  The trial of a Champaign father-son landlord team scheduled for Monday has been continued to Feb. 28.

The pair, Bernard Ramos and his father, Eduardo, have yet to comply with an agreement they made with the Champaign County Public Health Department in December to vacate five of the eight buildings at Cherry Orchard Apartments, a complex south of Rantoul.

Rantoul Press/ A sign at Cherry Orchard apartments, south of Rantoul.

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.

No place to sleep: From eviction to shelter

Alissa Groeninger/CU-CitizenAccess — Valentino Plaza was born in Champaign but left when he was eight years old.  His father was in the military and stationed in the county, but was soon out of his life. 

Plaza and his mother moved back to Champaign a few years ago and were staying with her 96-year-old mother. 

“My old neighborhood looks smaller,” Plaza said.

Unfortunately, Plaza’s grandma didn’t pay her taxes. After she died, Plaza and his mother were evicted.

While he has family here, he doesn’t see them.

“They’re right here and look where we are.  They’re not offering to help us,” he said.

Darrell Hoemann/The News-Gazette/Valentino Plaza. Plaza has found temporary housing at Restoration Urbana Ministries, where he lives with his mother after they were evicted from their home.

No place to sleep: Woman struggles to find permanent home

Alissa Groeninger/CU-CitizenAccess — When Tina Lee’s home burned down last year, she and her children saw not only the house but their lives turn to ash.

“We lost everything,” Lee said.

She spent the night trying to find a place to sleep but couldn’t stay at a shelter because her teenage sons were with her. 

There is no emergency shelter in Champaign County where a single mother with sons over 14 can stay.  Also, her family is too big for a shelter – she lives with six of her children.

Lee and her family’s first option after the fire was to spend a few nights with her sister.

Darrell Hoemann/The News-Gazette/Tina Lee and her son, Pierre James. Lee and her family of six had a hard time finding emergency housing after a fire forced the family into homelessness.

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