Chicago crumbling in poverty
Chicago – at first glance a picture-perfect city . But what happens with a sneak peak behind the façade and a flip of the postcard?
The gap between the rich and poor in Chicago is extremely visible. Well-off neighborhoods are just a hop and skip away from places where sorrow is dense in the atmosphere on countless streets, where rows and rows of devastated homes hold thousands of people for whom every single day is a struggle.
“Most people think that’s all of Chicago – and that’s gorgeous Chicago – but there is still an 85 percent of the city that they haven’t seen”, said school teacher and activist Sati Word, roaming the streets with RT’s crew. Born and raised in the city, he works several jobs to keep up.
The city falling to its knees is a personal pain for him.
“This is a neighborhood that had factories and industry – and once industry died so did this neighborhood,” the man pointed out.
It's a pattern seen in much of Illinois. In the last decade, over 200,000 jobs in manufacturing went down the drain. Life is especially tough for Chicago’s black community.One in three African-American men in their early 20s are unemployed. Men like Chris.
“It’s been tough trying to get a job, it’s been real tough," says the young man.
Overall African-American joblessness in Chicago is over 20 percent – more than twice the white rate.
“There is no jobs. I don’t care what kind of education you got. Some people just don’t havea job. Can’t find anything, and that’s bad,” says middle school security guard Geraldine Anderson.
“Over on the other side of the tracks, there’s a lot of drugs. A lot of people have turned to drugs. A lot of people turned to selling drugs,” says Sati, walking the most dangerous streets in Chicago.
Locals explain – it’s done here to get by. Robbery is also at a peak.
“Trying to get something they could pawn to get money of off. Any way to make money, they’re going to do it,” said unemployed Chris Curtis.
For many, it’s a vicious circle.
Having paid for his crimes, six months out of jail, Darryl Batts is back where he started – fighting for a job.
“The government is falling short. It’s that simple. Lip service, that’s what that is. They say one thing and when it trickles down, there’s nothing there,” the former convict said.
What is there, however, is heroin use and record-high binge drinking – Chicago holds the top spot in the US.
Food pantries are working non-stop as hunger intensifies, but supplies are short.
“Oh my goodness… It’s almost to the point where it’s unexplainable. There is such an increase in demand for food for hunger in Chicago, because of the economy, being the way it is,” says food pantry director Renee White.
The number of families living in poverty now stands at an astounding 45 percent – almost half the population. Many of those going hungry are kids.
One in three children in Chicago are said to live below the poverty line.
“I am quite sure that there are homeless children in the building. You’re not supposed to let staff know if they are or not,” says third grade teacher Carolyn Harris.
Over the last year, income rates here have dropped by more than ten percent, making it harder for entire generations of families to stay afloat.
“Some are embarrassed or too proud to speak about it. It starts from the kids and goes all the way up to our seniors, and they have the same issues,” says Renee White back at the food pantry.
From young to old, the hometown of the American president is filled with sorrow that’s already too deep to ignore.