|Location||Cermak Road on the north, 25th Street on the south, State Street on the east, Federal Street on the west....|
|Neighborhood||Near South Side|
These projects were built between 1954 and 1955 over the very oldest section of the “Black Belt” between Cermak Road to 25th Street on State Street. These projects were designed to be African American only projects and were named after Harold L. Ickes who was a member of former president Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal administration as he served as the Secretary of Interior and helped with public housing policies.
The complex consisted of eleven buildings that were 9 story high rises with a total of 738 units. These projects were an ideal place for residents to live and also had a strong sense of community from the very beginning. When other project complexes began to deteriorate and violent street gangs moved in, the Harold Ickes Homes did not experience these issues as severely in the 1960s and most of the 1970s due to the fact that this community had strong leaders that were able to push the CHA to pay closer attention to repairs and safety in these buildings.
The Harold Ickes Homes were known to be one of the safer projects on the south side streets; however, they did have their fair share of crime, drug and gang related activity. The dominating gang in this complex was the Gangster Disciples that were moving large amounts of crack cocaine in this complex. In 1989 “security sweeps” started happening in these projects which lasted until 1996 which required residents to have ID badges and if they did not they could be arrested.
In 1995 the CHA no longer had control of the projects as HUD took over and had cut Harold Ickes’ budget and wanted to focus on much worse off projects which took away the powers of residential leaders which was the main factor that led to the security cut back in 1996. Many residents felt harassed during these security sweeps even though many transient criminals were pushed out. After the security was cut back severe gang wars ensued as the Gangster Disciples fought off invading street gangs and renegade factions, during the worst part of the wars gangs locked the back doors of the buildings with an iron bar and made residents knock before entry. Gang members would also knock out light bulbs in order to keep criminal activity discreet this upset many of the elderly residents that had a tough time seeing and since these projects were mostly consisted of older and longer term residents this posed a major issue.
In the 2000s decade Herold Ickes became a major site for residents displaced from the tearing down of other south side projects to reside. The issues with bringing in strangers from other projects brought more crime, gang activity, drug activity and deterioration than ever before, longtime residents then became fearful and fled the community creating many vacant apartments; this caused Harold Ickes to fall into a slum instead of just a troubled complex. Drug addicts urinated, defecated and vomited in the hallways and elevators. Violent murders happened on a regular basis now and the lobbies were in a horrible state full of homeless and intoxicated addicts that urinated everywhere. Harold Ickes went from a troubled public housing complex that was at least livable to a squalled hellhole that residents feared coming home to.
Harold Ickes was on the list of projects to either be demolished or renovated but residents were left in limbo not knowing which fate would be theirs, would losing their homes happen or would they get their homes fixed up. The Gangster Disciples ruled these projects for many years which created an environment where there were not as many gang wars and violence as other housing projects; however, it still was much higher than in a regular community, but in the 2000s other transient gangs moved in to contest the GDs and bloody gang wars ensued while residents were caught in the cross fire.
In the final years of the these projects’ existent security and police presence was heavily increased especially in the year 2007 when police began arresting people left and right. The residents of the Ickes projects were given notice to vacate their property and use the section 8 vouchers to find a new place to live, in the midst of them moving they would call upon friends and relatives to help them move, but the police were looking for people that did not reside in the projects and as a result they gave a hard time to these relatives that were helping them move because the relatives often had criminal records. Residents began recording and documenting police brutality and harassment. In 2007 a man was strip searched in front of everyone including small children as he was stripped completely naked. Reverend Jesse Jackson stayed in one of the units for a while to personally observe the mistreatment and he brought it into the public eye. In 2009 all residents were vacated from the projects and demolition began through 2010.
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