Essay about There Are No Children Here - If I Grow Up

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There Are No Children Here - If I Grow Up

"If I grow up, I'd like to be a bus driver." If -- not when. Sentiments like this echo hauntingly through the pages of Alex Kotlowitz's account of his two-year documentation of the lives of two brothers, Lafeyette and Pharoah Rivers. The boys are afforded little happiness and too much grief, trying to survive from day to day in their appartment at the crime-ridden Henry Horner Homes housing project on the outskirts of Chicago. When Kotlowitz approached the boys' mother, LaJoe, about writing the book about her children, she agreed with him, but felt the need to set him straight. "But you know, there are no chlidren here. They've seen too much to be children," LaJoe told Kotlowitz.
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She said she could not imagine that things could get any better than they were, and she surely could not predict the sharp decline in quality of living that would follow in the next fifteen years.

Fifteen years later the apartments were overheated to swealtering proportions in the winter. LaJoe's oven rarely worked. The bathtub would not shut off and constantly gushed scalding hot water. One of the toilets emitted an unbearable stench, as did the kitchen sink later. The children routinely shletered themselves from gang gunfire.

Fifteen years of neglect by the Chicago Housing Authority was to blame for the state of disrepair in Horner. An employee for CHA toured Horner, finding incomprehensible signs of neglect and mismanagement in the basements of the housing projects. Over 2,000 never-been-used ranges and refrigerators, some still in cartons, were found rusting away in pools of water. Dead animals, piles of human and animal excrement, used female sanitation devices and puddles of urine in the basement accounted for the stench in LaJoe's apartment, one floor above the mess. The CHA employee sent out memos alerting others in the office about the situation at Horner. But, due to the lack of funding and willingness to cover up mismanagement, the situation remained stagnant for another two years. The situation finally changed when a new head was appointed to the CHA. Even then, the changes were made slowly.

The boys also grew up with a distinct amount of
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