Inspired by Brandon Stanton’s Humans of New York, PEOPLE OF PUBLIC HOUSING is a simple project. With this collection of stories and images of those with lived experience in public housing, we hope to not only illuminate the diverse backgrounds of public housing residents, but also highlight some of the commonalities that we all share.
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Meet JonTia Pegues, who lived in the ABLA community from 1987 to 1997:
“I love Jeopardy! and I really plan to be on there before Alex Trebek retires. I just saw an article the other day that he knows who he wants to replace him and I’m like, “Not yet!” So I have to prepare and take the test. I have this app in my phone that helps me keep track of my score while I’m watching the show – like I really love this show. That started probably when I was 12. When I started to visit my dad on the weekends, I saw that he liked Jeopardy! and he was really good at it. I was really surprised and then I just started watching Jeopardy! after that.”
Meet Daniel Nicholson, who reflects on his time at Stateway Gardens from 1980 to 1997:
“I always liked the lights. It looked like a stadium, a ball stadium. Comiskey Park was there at the time and you would hear that, but you would be present where you are. Just the lights. You’re a little kid looking up at a really, really tall building, a bunch of them just clustered together. Like nothing you could ever imagine.”
Meet Allen Schwartz, who grew up at the Jane Addams Homes and shared an early friendship with us:
“I don’t remember whether it was in kindergarten or first grade. I got this bodyguard: this kid in my class, Monzardi, who was African-American. He was a big guy. I picture him as being six feet in first grade. Of course he wasn’t, but he was tall. He was bigger than everyone else, and for some reason, he decided to become my bodyguard. I didn’t ask him to and I’m not even exactly sure how it happened. But he decided to become my friend and my bodyguard. So for a while I felt protected by Monzardi, and I often wondered, ‘What ever happened to Monzardi?’ You know, now I’m 74 and he would be about the same age. Hopefully he’s still living and had a decent life.”
Meet Randsley Warren, who lived at ABLA from 1958 to 1991:
“Staying in a neighborhood is different from staying in the public housing because you get to meet more people in the public housing than you actually do in the neighborhood. You know, you don't get that many people that visit your home, but in the projects, we could run to other people’s house, eat a sandwich…Even if you go through there dinner time, you were always welcomed. It was family-oriented, and everyone was happy to get along with one another. Throughout the neighborhood, everyone was a parent to your kid.”
Meet Liz Torres, who grew up in the Amsterdam Homes in New York City. Known for her roles in the John Larroquette Show and the Gilmore Girls, Torres reflected on the political climate for the Puerto Rican community in the projects and meeting a former First Lady.
“I remember meeting Eleanor Roosevelt in the projects. She was in a car, she was visiting the projects because there were a lot of Puerto Ricans in the projects, and my father came and he got me. I remember him making me run to the parking area, there was a car, and there was an elderly woman and I said “hello,” and she said “hello, how old are you?”. She was very very sweet.”
In our People of Public Housing project, we have featured a wide variety of different voices and stories, from comedians to a candy store owner. We’d like to feature the story of our 39th President, Jimmy Carter. After his father's death in 1953, the Carter family returned to Plains, Georgia to take over the family peanut business. President Carter, his wife Rosalynn, and their three young sons moved into the Dura Apartment, Unit 9A on Pascal and Thomas Streets, one of six Federal Housing Projects built by the Americus Housing Authority in 1953.
For this month’s People of Public Housing, we introduce you to Delores, mother of Illinois State Senator Patricia Van Pelt, who lived in Cabrini-Green during the 1960s. While living in Cabrini, Delores wrote a letter to President Richard Nixon about the state of violence in the community. She reflects on moving out of the neighborhood into her next home by saying “they (HUD) wrote to me about a program, it was less than $100 down...they were keeping it a secret, we didn’t know anything about it! I wanted my friends to know when I found out about the program, I always like sharing information, because somebody shared information with me, through life you learn a lot, sometimes it’s by word of mouth.”