Life Below the City – written by David Pendley

19 09 2011

The original post was written by David Pendley, owner of Avenue Mortgage. If you have any items to share (blankets, clothes, shoes, socks and underwear, and food) with the homeless living in Chicago, please contact me.

  This is a stairway view from Lower Wacker Avenue in Chicago.  In 1926 Daniel Burnham had a vision to build a road under the city of Chicago to expedite traffic flow.  Essentially it allows the Chicagoan to travel to other parts of the city, all under ground.   Almost immediately after it’s construction the United States was decimated by The Great Depression causing the homeless population to explode in America.  Since Lower Wacker is protected from the elements, (wind, rain, and 15 degrees warmer), it made a natural habitat for people seeking shelter… as well as rats the size of footballs and thousands of pigeons.  Since Lower Wacker never see’s rain it also doesn’t get clean.  On the walls and ground there is about 1/4 inch of dirt, grease and pigeon feces everywhere.  At its’ peek over 2000 people resided in Lower Wacker.

Today approximately 100-200 homeless people live on Lower Wacker.  Mayor Daley  and the Chicago City Council erected bars and cages in about 80% of the areas to discourage ‘settlers’, but many still call it home.

I’ve been going down to Lower Wacker for about 6 years now with a couple friends.  Early on we realized a homeless person’s  greatest need wasn’t food or clothing (although that is what we bring).  What these men and women yearn for is love.  They are seldom listened to, hugged,  or prayed for.   After getting to

know Reggie, Dave, Macktee, Big Joe, Gwyn, Mike, Gary and many more I have been deeply moved by their various journeys.

Dave for example grew up in what appeared to be the perfect family in Berwyn Illinois ( a suburb just a few miles west of Chicago).  His father was wonderful to the family… until he drank.  On the weekends he would violently beat Dave’s mother.  As the years went on Dave watched the decline of his mothers’ health at the hand of his fathers brutal tirades.  When his mothers front tooth was knocked out one exceedingly gruesome night Dave snapped.  He threw his father down the basement stairs and beat his head against the masonry floor until he was dead.  When Dave was telling me this story he was shaking and very emotional.  Ironically he said he loved his father  and missed him very much.  He also said he was reeling from the guilt.  Fast forward 35 years…Dave was 18 months away from retiring from UPS when he found out his wife was having an affair with one of his co-workers.  When he confronted her she confessed his eldest son was not his.   He fell into severe depression and went down to Lower Wacker to kill himself.  He has now been living there almost three years.  Dave never asks us for anything and he is overly appreciated that we come down and visit.  We pray for Dave and try to show him Christs’ love.

Each story is complicated and the journey “up the stairs” is even more complex.  I have realized I can’t fix anyones life, but I can show them Christs’ love and respect.   My hope for these gentle souls is they would find the perfect peace that comes from Christ alone…and know they have a home being built for them in heaven.




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