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Repetitive sounds have interesting, sometimes debilitating, effects on human beings. Virtually no one can listen to consistent banging, squeaking or screaming without reacting in some way.

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It human nature to dislike hearing the same thing over and over, hence the expression “the squeaky wheel gets the oil.”

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There is a good reason this newspaper is running yet another story about the public housing crisis in Cairo, in East St. Louis and towns and cities across the United States. The problems are not being addressed, at least not in any palpable fashion.

People we work with, the children our kids go to school with, people who work at the grocery stores and the shops we frequent are living in substandard conditions — and little is being done to see they no longer have to live in squalor.

Molly Parker, an investigative reporter for The Southern Illinoisan, has been telling stories about the atrocious conditions in Cairo’s public housing complexes. The government’s response — shutter the buildings and force the residents to move elsewhere.

Ben Carson declared mission accomplished in East St. Louis — where public housing is still a disaster.

That isn’t adequate.

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Mahatma Ghandi said, “A nation’s greatness is judged by how it treats its weakest members.”

Here, in America, at this time, we push some of our most vulnerable citizens out of their homes, move them to another location and hope the problem goes away. Or, government officials suggest we triple their rent to incentivize them to pull themselves up by their bootstraps.

And, it’s painfully obvious we are going to have to keep beating that drum.

As long ago as 1985, Housing and Urban Development officials understood there was a problem with public housing in East St. Louis. They seized control of the East St. Louis Housing Authority, citing poor living conditions and fraud.

In a ceremony earlier this year, Ben Carson, the current HUD director, came to East St. Louis to return control of the public housing units back to the East St. Louis Housing Authority. It was his “Mission Accomplished” moment.

Carson declared that residents were no longer at risk — a bold statement considering nine of the 12 public housing projects in the city had failed health and safety inspections by HUD’s own inspectors. The inspectors found windows and doors that didn’t lock, infestation, mildew, peeling paint, and maybe most damning of all, missing lead-based paint inspection reports.

This is America. This is 2018. Our fellow citizens deserve better.

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Think about the situation for a moment.

Are those conditions acceptable for your family? Could you stomach to see your children, your parents living in such conditions?

Should that even make a difference?

And, despite nearly universal agreement that something needs to be done we run in the opposite direction. HUD funding for major repairs at public housing complexes has fallen 35 percent, from $4.2 billion in fiscal 2000 to $2.7 billion in 2018, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Remarkably, earlier this year the White House proposed eliminating the funding completely.

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In the meantime, in Illinois we watch the systematic dismantling of the once-bustling city of Cairo.

HUD is failing to protect children from lead paint poisoning, audits find

Sure, there have been meetings with politicians “Tsk, tsk, tsking,” but to date the only suggesting for reviving the town is a port facility. While not negating the validity of the plan, a port becoming a reality is at least 10 years in the future.

The prospect of a port opening in 2030 does nothing, not even offer hope, to someone trying to eke out a living in Cairo in 2018.

That is why these stories need to be told again and again. We need to be aware of what is happening to our fellow citizens.

Thump! Thump! Thump!

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