Eight children found living in squalor

August 18, 2009 5:05:56 PM PDT
A 29-year-old woman has been charged with child endangerment after her children were left alone in a filthy Bronzeville home. Mary Steele said she only left her children alone briefly so she could pick up some items at a nearby store. Her relatives say the family is trying to survive in tough financial times.

City builders said people cannot live in the home in the 3800-block of South Calumet Avenue because the conditions are so bad. A sticker on the door now warns people to stay outside. There's no working plumbing, minimal food and 'disgusting' conditions.

But eight children-- between 3 month and 11 years old-- were living there.

"First and foremost is our concern for the children. Obviously, since they're out of the residence, that's our immediate concern," said Richard Monocchio, Chicago Building Commissioner.

Family members said there's a larger story: A single mother with eight children who moved into he vacant house that was already a mess because her family needed a roof over its head.

"The house was not like this. The police know it was not like this. This didn't happen 'til it got vandalized. She was in the process of fixing up the place. She had no place to stay. I told her she could stay here," said Maurice Lawson, mother's father.

Despite the poor conditions in the home, police say the children appear to be in good condition. They were taken to Comer Children's Hospital to be evaluated.

."It's hard with a job, let alone on fixed income. She's a good mom. She just got caught up at the wrong time," said Alvin Williams, friend of family. "The house is not ready - somebody called DCFS, I guess."

An anonymous tip brought police to the home early Tuesday morning. Investigators say the children's mother came in shortly after they arrived.

Neighbors we spoke with didn't report any problems with the family. One resident told of her concern for the conditions the children were living in.

"Not surprised. But it's just unfortunate. A lot of people do live like that, you know. They have no other means or places to live," said Terry Perdue, neighbor.

The Department of Children and Family Services has temporary custody of the children, who have been placed in foster care.


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