From WILL - News Headlines -

Cherry Orchard Residents May Soon Have Permanent Housing

Officials with the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District (CUPHD) are scrambling to find homes for a dozen displaced Rantoul residents who left the Cherry Orchard apartments last week after reports of poor living conditions.

Even though most of the Cherry Orchard tenants have left the apartment complex, CUPHD administrator Julie Pryde said one family continues to live there, but will move out once they have a permanent place to live.

"They have heat and water now, so they are safe in that regard," Pryde said.

The rest of the tenants have temporarily moved into hotel rooms. The CUPHD is trying to secure residential leases for those individuals with area landlords. Jennifer Valade, the social services director with the Salvation Army of Champaign County, said her agency's waiting for the public health district to help set up the lease agreements, so that the Salvation Army can work with people who need help with rent.

"It's obvious that they're going to need agencies to help them out, and unfortunately they were put in a situation that they didn't deserve," Valade said.

Problems with Cherry Orchard apartments stemmed from a Sept. 2007 review by health inspectors who discovered a broken septic system leaking sewage into nearby farmland. Since then, tenants have complained about inadequate heating, mold, and power outages.

Pryde said CUPHD has hit a snag in securing a lease for each individual. She said she is close to finding one family a permanent home, but still struggling to find homes for everyone else.

The Cherry Orchard apartments have traditionally housed many migrant workers, who live in Rantoul for part of the year while working for a large agricultural company, like Pioneer, Monsanto, or Syngenta. Some of them may not have a strong credit history, which can make it difficult to get a residential lease agreement worked out.

"The issue is some of these folks don't have a very good rental history, if any," said Andy Kulczycki, executive director of the Community Service Center of Northern Champaign County. "A lot of landlords screen their potential tenants."

Cherry Orchard's landlords, Bernard Ramos and his father, Eduardo, are schedule to appear before a judge during a Jan. 24 bench trial for failing to move their tenants and fix their sewer and septic systems as they originally promised.