Mending A Broken City: saving Chicago’s houses


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Maybe only those without sight or heart fail to see the ghosts on Chicago’s streets.

The houses that weep, their windows gaping sores.

We live in a city where  housing zombies multiply day and night.

There were at least 3,200 zombie homes by 2011- homes that sit empty after a foreclosure, according to a compelling look at the situation in the latest Chicago Reporter.

What makes the Reporter’s effort different and even more important is its examination of one community group’s struggle to stem the scourge.

The telling of the rehab effort by the Inner-City Muslim Action Network needs, however, to be held up against the article’s detailing of the challenges facing those who struggle to bring back to life these ghost homes.

Here is how writer Angela Caputo begins her reporting:

Neighbors don’t know exactly when the building at 6210 S. Fairfield Ave. became abandoned. But by 2009, the two-flat was a hollow wreck, with chunks of the roof littering the rotting wood floor.

No one looked after the building with the flat roof and red brick facade. Neither the bank nor the investor who had financed the property wanted to take care of it. Even by generous estimates, the building was worth only about one third of the $229,000 mortgage that was taken out in 2007.

It was a typical bank walk-away.

A gang claimed the building.

Prostitutes slipped in to hide and turn tricks.

Gunshots rang out regularly in the alley.

Neighbors repeatedly called police and City Hall for help.

Then a volunteer from the Inner-City Muslim Action Network, which has an office at the end of the block, found a girl crying next to the building. She had been raped in the gangway in broad daylight.

“That, for us, was the tipping point,” says Rami Nashashibi, the organization’s executive director.

Two years ago, the city mounted a red X on the front of the building, a sign to firefighters that it wasn’t worth saving. Like a death sentence. But the house would not die.

In an unlikely turn of events, a community came together to bring a building, and a neighborhood, back to life.”

http://chicagoreporter.com/reclaiming-avenue#.U4jnUGRDtQo

Good reporting, like that performed by the Chicago Reporter, tells us about wounds to our society that we somehow ignore. But it is almost as important not to leave our communities hopeless, and that’s why this kind reporting is so important.

We need to look at the solutions, weighing what’s real and possible.

We’re planning on a workshop to look at how best to cover Chicago’s housing problems, and we can use your help.

What are the housing stories you want to know about?

What are the stories that you consider too complex to deal with easily?

And why do you think housing matters in  your community.

Let us know and let’s talk. If you’ve done any of this reporting, please pass it along.

digame – steve franklin

steve@chicagoistheworld.org, office 312 369 6400, cell 773 595 8667

 



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