There’s no place like home

There’s no place like home

by Eric A. Thomas

Since 1965 the Morgan County Housing Authority (MCHA) has been providing a place to call home to thousands of Jacksonville residents.

With multiple locations throughout Jacksonville, MCHA has a total of 408 units within public housing and 74 units within non-for-profit and tax credit housing. Under the non-for-profit umbrella, they have seven single-family houses that they rent. All of the range in size from one bedroom up to five bedrooms. If each unit were at capacity, they have space for 1,212 tenants between all their locations. Currently, they are at 93% occupancy level in public housing and 100% occupancy in non-for-profit and tax credit units.

To live in Morgan County Housing, potential residents must pass a criminal background check, be able to get utilities in their name, pay a deposit and not owe other housing authorities money. If an individual is interested, they must fill out an application and turn it in with the requested documents to the property manager. Once the application is processed, a letter of approval or denial will be sent out.

The Executive Director is Debra Walters. She started working for the Housing Authority in August 2015 as their finance director and was promoted to her current position in March 2019. Walters came to Jacksonville from southern Illinois to study at Illinois College where she received a bachelor’s degree in psychology and sociology. “I love working with individuals and doing what I can to make life a little better for them in any way possible,” remarked Walters. Ultimately, Walters ended up on staff at MCHA.

In addition to having a place to call home, the residents enjoy a few amenities. Free public transportation on West Central Mass Transit is available to any resident of public housing, Morgan County Civic Services, Downtown Commons, Gilmore Estates and Prairie Estates. Currently, they have computer labs available in Walnut, Vas Homes, Turner High-Rise, and Gilmore Estates. These are all available to use when the service coordinator is in the office at those locations. Beecher High-Rise will soon have a computer lab as well. Free Wi-Fi is available at Beecher High-Rise and the Housing Authority is currently working with CASSCOMM to install free Wi-Fi at the Vas family sites. “Recently we hired a Service Coordinator to help our tenants link up with other services in the area,” added Walters. “This will be a great addition to our staff and for our residents.”

Community involvement and support through the years has been great. Currently, they are trying to work with Jacksonville Rotary in providing a “traveling” foodbank for Vas and Walnut. The Crossing Church here in Jacksonville has stepped forward to provide a hygiene closet at Vas, Walnut and Turner.

Due to COVID, the MCHA adjusted procedures for handling applications. They were handling appointments by mail and over the phone. Now, they are taking appointments for applications. All are done at the front window, limiting human contact. They only allow one individual or family into the lobby at a time. Their maintenance staff sanitizes the high-rises twice daily during the week and once a day on the weekends. During the early days of the pandemic, maintenance staff only handled emergency work orders. “In closing, I would like to thank my staff for being extra diligent during all of this,” concluded Walters. “I also want to give a big thank you for what they do day in and day out to help make MCHA a better place.”

Morgan County Housing Authority can be reached at (217) 243-3338 or at their main offices located at 301 W. Beecher Avenue in Jacksonville.

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