Thursday, October 09, 2008

Peoria's very own Cabrini-Green

I'm tellin ya, people...ain't nothin can make ya feel more...alive...than takin a stroll through Peoria's Harrison Homes in mid-afternoon.

Except maybe takin a stroll down through there at 1 am.

I'm a lotta things, but I ain't stupid. Mid-afternoon is alive enough for me.

(Photo Googled and found to be courtesy of
  • The Peoria Chronicle
  • .)

    Doesn't look too bad in this photo, does it? Trust me. It is, in a word, a hellhole. Ok, so technically hellhole is two words. Two words or no, it is.

    Every time I'm down there, I'm reminded of the movie
  • Candyman
  • , which is set in Chicago's Cabrini-Green, the public housing hellhole to end all public housing hellholes. Or it used to be, anyway.

    But the horror that is the Candyman is nothin compared to the horror that is Harrison.

    Thankfully, like Cabrini-Green, most...if not all...of the complex is being demolished. It's well past it's time.

    From the Peoria Housing Authority's official site:
    In February 1942, Harrison Homes, on Peoria's far South Side, also saw residents begin moving into the available apartments on the 56-acre site. The demand for public housing on the South Side was so great that Harrison Homes was added on to twice between 1942 and 1952.

    It's old. And it hasn't aged well.

    Many of the buildings that have been knocked down still exist as piles of rubble. If it's windy, dust from the old brick and bare earth whirl around, coating everything. The buildings that are still inhabited are...awful. They've just plain outlived their usefulness.

    Of course, most of the individuals still living there just don't care about their homes. They've broken windows and doors. They leave garbage, broken crack pipes and other crap lying around. They break out the screens, so bugs and gawd knows what else feels free to fly in and out. The interior of their already-shabby apartments are filthy and...uninhabitable. To me, anyway.

    They just don't care. Hey...they don't hafta pay for it. But, ya know...I suppose they figure if nobody else cares, they don't either. There are a few, scattered bright spots...a tiny flower bed planted alongside one of the little stoops. A cheap, colorful wreath on a door. Pathetic attempts to prettify a place that is the very antithesis of pretty.

    Every time I'm down there, I think about what it would be like to live there. And I shudder inside. I can't imagine it. I can't imagine having to live in a place this...desolate...this...awful. A place where
  • this
  • is an everyday occurrence. A place where there's very little hope...for anything. For a better place to live. For a better life.

    It's kinda awful to think that this is the best that some people hope for. That this is the best that they know how to hope for. They simply don't know any better way to live.

    I understand that there are plans to "rehab" a few of the remaining buildings. 'Course, by "rehab", they mean paint...maybe some new tile on the floors...mostly cosmetic...nothin major. Like puttin lipstick on a pig. Nothin that will really make them much better than they are now. They won't stay rehabbed for long.

    Unfortunately, ya can't "rehab" hopelessness.


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