Taft Homes, Harrison Homes fail 2019 HUD inspections; former residents say major improvements are needed

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PEORIA, Ill. — A new report details dangerous conditions inside Peoria’s Section-8 housing.

On Thursday, ProPublica released an in-depth report stating while public housing is becoming more necessary, the conditions of the buildings are getting worse.

WMBD spoke with two men who grew up in Taft Homes who say things have not always been this way.

William Cannon says there are more changes that need to happen at Taft Homes, than just the buildings themselves.

“There’s a certain group element in this community that doesn’t care whether it’s against the law, or if they’re hurting kids. That’s what needs to be addressed,” Cannon said.

Cannon grew up in Taft Homes, he says while the Peoria Housing Authority needs to take bold action to make things better for its residents, the people who live in the housing need to treat their living spaces with more respect.

“It’s a hard thing. It all comes back to finances. It comes back to instilling a little pride in where you live too,” Cannon said.

According to a report by ProPublica, Taft Homes has failed three of its five most recent inspections by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Cannon says a large part of Peoria’s future lives in these homes. He wants residents to have every chance to live a fulfilling life.

“At our Lincoln School we probably have 70-80 kids that live down here. Do you know how happy I would be if they could move this along so fast and these kids are living in a nice, clean, SAFE environment?” Cannon said.

Cannon works with Elite Youth Outreach in Peoria which tries to help kids of all ages in the Peoria area find entry-level jobs. He says many people don’t see the full picture when it comes to the Peorians that live at Taft Homes.

“Contrary to what people think, everybody down here isn’t a bad person. Got some issues, definitely got some issues that we need to address as a community, but most of the people down here are good people,” Cannon said.

“Look at all the boarded up places. They need to be torn down, they need to be rebuilt. You can’t displace these people permanently, they need someplace to live, but they need someplace they can call home,” Cannon added.

Agbara Bryson is the Founder of New Millenium Institute. He teaches life skills to the youth and hosts Implicit Bias Training sessions with local law enforcement and high schoolers.

Bryson grew up in Taft Homes and says there’s a great opportunity there to change the entire culture.

“I hope that Taft Homes will evolve into where people are taking more responsibility for their self-sufficiency. Where individuals will tie into the bigger community,” Bryson said.

Bryson says he’d like to see any Section-8 Housing improvements include both job training and education to its residents.

The report adds that Harrison Homes also failed its HUD inspection earlier this year, scoring a 45 out of 100 points.

Cannon says while there are a lot of things that need to be fixed, there are some positive things going on at Taft Homes.

“The Housing Authority let us run summer school down here. It’s the first time that happened last year. We had great turnouts. You see the people who come down and feed the kids free lunches,” Cannon added.

When we asked Cannon what he hoped to see in five years, here’s what he had to say.

I would hope we’d be sitting here going ‘Wow, can you believe this? Remember five years ago what it looked like? Look what the Housing Authority has done.’ Look what the well-meaning people on the Board did. Now let’s go talk to residents, and see the smiles on their faces. Let’s talk to the kids and see how they like it.”

William Cannon | Grew up in Taft Homes

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