Deadly Little Village fire helps explain Chicago's gun violence

Looking for "root causes" of the gang gun violence that is killing so many young people in Chicago? Look then to the apartment fire in Little Village that killed ten children--3 months to 16 years old--who were having a sleepover and the horrible conditions in which they were living.

Imagine yourself having to grow up in a home in which:

  • The mother of some of the children had been investigated 21 times since 2004, according to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. One involved her then 8-year-old autistic son who was found wandering in traffic. She reportedly told told investigators she was depressed and overwhelmed caring for seven children, including one with disabilities. She reportedly was offered support services but declined. Apparently no father(s) was present in the household to carry some of the load and provide support. We are waiting word to hear whether the kids, who were sleeping at the time of the fire, had any adult supervision.
  • The kids were living in a pit. Six building code violations had been issued for the coachhouse were the kids had been sleeping. Thirty-eight more were issued in the home in front of the carriage house. Tenants complained to the city about rats, bedbugs, doors falling off hinges and sinking floor,. Citations were issued for electrical violations. Some smoke alarms were inoperative.

Relatives and neighbors walk among the candles, flowers and crosses Aug. 30, 2018, at the scene of a fire that erupted the Sunday before. Ultimately, 10 children died because of the fire. (Abel Uribe / Chicago Tribune)

Relatives and neighbors walk among the candles, flowers and crosses Aug. 30, 2018, at the scene of a fire that erupted the Sunday before. Ultimately, 10 children died because of the fire. (Abel Uribe / Chicago Tribune)

I'm guessing that these weren't the only problems. Blame will be placed. Scapegoats will be found. Investigations will be called for and probes will be initiated. Someone will make it a campaign issue.

None of that is my point here. These kids were doomed from the beginning. Doomed to a miserable, hopeless life. Caught in the rip tide of a childhood overwhelmed by ignorance, depression, abandonment, poverty and more. What  chance would any of us have had to lead a productive life in such a hopeless and crushing hell?

Those who fight their way through this abyss are heroic and strong.  Stronger than most of us. The easier path is paved with drugs, gangs, violence and simmering hatred. And to pass on their crippling dysfunctions to future generations. Who among us could overcome?

Is there an answer?

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dennis@dennisbyrne.net

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