I Didn’t Want to Move the First Time, and I Sure Don’t Want to Move a Second Time

Earlene Lyons was thrilled to get a public housing apartment in Cairo about four years ago. Lyons liked her unit at Elmwood, with the exception of the roaches and three spontaneous kitchen fires blamed on faulty electrical wiring — problems she was willing to overlook for the sake of stability.

When HUD announced plans to close the Cairo complexes, Lyons was disappointed but she jumped at an opening at Sunset Terrace, a public housing building in Thebes, about 20 minutes away. Lyons had lived in Thebes before, and her best friend lived in the unit next door. Plus, HUD would pay for the move.

But the transition was harder than she imagined. She has custody of her 6-year-old grandson, Jamarion, who is autistic. He had to switch school districts and, though behavioral issues were never a problem before, he got in trouble at school shortly after he transferred. “They said he threw something at a student,” she said.

He’s done better with each passing month, Lyons said, but since HUD officials told Lyons she has to leave Thebes by the end of the year, her anxiety level has been “high, high, high.”

“It’s betrayal, really,” she said. “I didn’t want to move the first time, and I sure don’t want to move a second time.”

She worries how the next move will affect Jamarion. “He’s not good with change,” she said.

After receiving custody of Jamarion when he was a baby, Lyons said they were homeless for several months, forced to bounce from couch to couch among relatives. Prior to that, she spent close to a year living at a women’s shelter.

Lyons said she’s thankful that Jamarion was too young to remember the early years of his life. “He should not have to go through this,” she said. “We’re not homeless, but it’s still bouncing from house to house.”

One of Lyons’ biggest fears is that if her home life becomes too unstable, child welfare services could step in.

“It’s not my fault. It’s those people down there,” she said of federal housing officials. “They don’t understand the consequences to everything

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