No Hope for the Children in There Are No Children Here
Henry Horner Homes, an inner-city housing project, is the setting in which the story of two boys growing up in America’s inner-city occurs. The story tracks the River’s family, particularly the two middle boys, Lafeyette and Pharoah, focusing on the strife-ridden times of drugs, death, gangs, and poverty. The author describes how devastating life in the inner city is for a family, but mainly for the children.
Public housing complexes were seen as pleasurable places. When the boys’ mother, LaJoe, first moved to Horner she was thirteen. The homes had white, freshly painted walls, new linoleum floors, closets you could hide in, and brand new appliances. The children went to dances in the basement, belonged to the girl scouts, and played outside on the playground surrounded by freshly planted grass. This harmonious sight all came to an abrupt end. The housing authority did not have the money or interest to put into the projects. They did not have much concern for low-income families and, therefore, the projects were neglected. The smell in the apartments became so bad that people thought dead fetuses were being flushed down the toilets. The appliances in the apartments hardly ever worked, so cooking was limited. After an inspection of the basement, over 2000 new and used appliances were found covered with rats, animal carcasses and excrements. The dead animals, paraphernalia, and female undergarments explained the smell lingering throughout the apartments.
Inner-city life is filled with glimmers of hope. The children had hopes of leaving the dreadful streets of the ghetto and moving into an innovative and improved place. There are times when Lafayette states, through words and actions, that he would rather be dead than continue living in the prevailing conditions. In one instance, there was shooting outside the window and instead of crawling into the hallway as usual, he simply sat and watched television as if nothing were occurring. Numerous times throughout the story Pharoah prays to God but at the same time questioned if he truly exists. Even through his questioning he still prayed to bless his fish, heal his mother’s fingers which had been slashed, and for the family to move from the projects. He hoped that God would take his family somewhere better than the existing circumstance.
Alex Kotlowitz does a tremendous job portraying the effect that living in governmental housing has on poverty-stricken people. He focuses on children that are in this predicament in his book, THERE ARE NO CHILDREN HERE. When most think of childhood, they think of memories and friends playing in pleasant, non-stressful environments. Children in the ghetto do not have many memories of playing or friends; their friends are acquaintances. Most of their memories are filled with falling on the ground, hoping a stray bullet will not hit them. By the time these children become teenagers, they have...