‘My whole life was in there,’ Pekin man feels wronged after home demolished

A picture sits on top of the remaining rubble from a house on Caroline Street in Pekin.
A picture sits on top of the remaining rubble from a house on Caroline Street in Pekin.(WEEK)
Published: Jun. 5, 2023 at 8:00 PM CDT
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PEORIA (25News Now) - It took years for him to make his house feel like home, but it only took a few hours to tear it down.

Joe Hamblin rented a house on Caroline Street in Pekin for the past five years. A late April thunderstorm brought a whole tree down on his home, crushing the corner and damaging the roof.

He told 25News he warned Pekin City officials about the tree for years, even saying they removed the wrong tree and left his damaged and unstable one standing.


He claims he was ignored. Now, he’s still feeling ignored after his home was demolished with all of his belongings inside.

“My whole life was in there, and they just pulled the walls on it like it was nothing,” Hamblin said.

Hamblin, a brick mason, doesn’t have renter’s insurance. He’s waiting to see if his landlord’s insurance will cover rebuilding the home. He said he’s “in limbo” right now. With work, he doesn’t feel like he has the time to sort this out.

He went through the wreckage afterward, pulling out crumpled family photos and personal mementos.

“I got so many pictures of like, my grandparents. They’re no longer here so that’s something I’ll never get back,” Hamblin said. “A lot of sentimental stuff. Birth certificates, and all of my important paperwork. I can’t even think of it all.”

A statement from the city shows the timeline for Hamblin’s home. The tree hit on April 20, and the home was quickly ruled uninhabitable. Hamblin moved to a different apartment in town. He brought his bed and other necessities, believing he’d be able to get the rest of his things once repairs were done.

Hamblin’s landlord called at the end of May, saying the home would be demolished and he would have to be there early the next morning to collect his personal belongings.

“I thought they would get the structure safe so I could go in and get it, that never happened,” Hamblin said. He was able to retrieve one picture and some movies while the house was getting torn down. The rest was destroyed, according to Hamblin.

“City staff worked with the tenant to retrieve personal items from the home to the extent such retrieval could be done safely,” a statement from city officials said. The home had been marked condemned since it was hit by a tree.

25News showed Hamblin the city’s statement, he feels it’s not accurate. He said he still hasn’t heard anything from the city and feels he’s owed something for losing his home due to a city property tree.

25News reached out to the city for an on-camera interview. Interim City Manager John Dossey declined, directing us to the statement.

“I feel like they owe me big time,” Hamblin said. “I feel like they don’t care.”