In 1999, Mayor Richard Daley and the Chicago Housing Authority began their “Plan for Transformation,” an effort to restore and construct 25,000 public housing units.
But nearly 20 years later, the result of the housing’s destruction is a complex correlation of blame and causation that “finds a connection between the movement of former public-housing residents, decreased crime in the urban center, and increased crime in relocation neighborhoods,” including the South and West Sides, notes Chicago Magazine.
In an article published by The Atlantic titled “American Murder Mystery,” Dennis Rosenbaum, a criminologist at the University of Illinois at Chicago, explains that many suburbs saw soaring crime rates following the demolition of high-rise housing.
But what else was happening, and what was the cause?
The story is being retold via the documentary, They Don’t Give a Damn: The Story of the Failed Chicago Projects, which premieres Friday. The film is based on Dr. Dorothy Appiah‘s book titled Where Will They Go?: Transforming Public Housing in the City of Chicago and will premiere on Urban Movie Channel, the first subscription streaming service made for African-American and urban audiences in North America.
Created by writer/director Kenny Young and producer Phil James, They Don’t Give a Damn gives a voice to Chicago’s displaced South Side residents through a series of revealing interviews, presenting viewers with a first-hand account of many of the transformation’s shortcomings.
“The promise was great, but the promise wasn’t kept to the extent that they said it would be in the first place,” Renault Robinson, Former Chairman of CHA, says of the plan’s promise to provide lease-compliant residents with homes. “They didn’t replace all the housing – that’s the first thing, so a lot of units did not get built because the federal government had decided that public housing was no longer something that they were concerned with supporting.”
Ms. Dennis, community advocate and former Robert Taylor Homes resident, further explains, “The transition was hard on the residents because they didn’t understand the transition. They didn’t give them ample time. Social services was supposed to work with the residents for five years. They didn’t do that. They broke that promise.”
Originally premiered at The University of Chicago’s Logan Center for the Arts in February 2015, They Don’t Give a Damn: The Story of the Failed Chicago Projects makes its UMC debut on Friday, January 13 at urbanmoviechannel.com, marking the film’s first wide release.
“You see press from the authorities,” Appiah, who serves as the documentary’s executive producer, says at the beginning of the film. “You don’t hear the voice of those who were directly involved, and I think in order to have a balanced society, you need all points of view.”
Watch the trailer above.