After The Dust


Young people at the recent reunion for tenants of 5135 S. Federal St., one of the buildings in the now-demolished Robert Taylor Homes development. The reunion was held August 7 in the Dan Ryan Woods. Photo by Marsha Muhammad.

Five years after the last building in the Robert Taylor Homes was demolished, it’s a miracle to locate former residents not only from that development but from anywhere in the Chicago Housing Authority. After years of being displaced by gentrification, we were united on a social network site named Facebook. The best of my former neighbors at Robert Taylor are doing just fine. It may surprise many to see that we are functional people, since we were deemed dysfunctional and self-destructive. But we are alive and still standing! Still standing literally and figuratively.

In the summer of 1998, the first building in the Robert Taylor Homes located at 3901 S. Federal St. was torn down, followed by the cluster buildings on 53rd Street infamously known as the “Hole.” The name derived from the term, “If you come in, you can’t come out.”

Moving out of public housing became a challenge to the majority of former residents. Many families were disenfranchised by a welfare system that cut off their resources if they found employment that increased their income a penny over the poverty level. Residents learned how to survive by manipulating the system. Do just enough to not go homeless and live comfortable, but not enough to move out into the private sector and pay market rent. These residents outnumbered the working-class residents that paid market rent. This system bred generations of families who were taught the same cycle of survival. People rarely moved out. Perhaps the “Hole” should have been the nickname for the entire development.

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