Wednesday was the first day of school in Gary, and Letrrice Jamison's five children were new students. Jamison said the school closings in Chicago and more affordable rent in Gary drove her and her family across state lines.
Boarded up storefronts, empty lots, decaying infrastructure. In the past 50 years, Gary Indiana has lost more than half of its population, yet for Jamison and her big family, Gary represents hope.
"I don't know too much about Gary, but the gas is cheaper, the housing out here is cheaper," she said.
So, a month ago, Jamison decided to move her five children and her mother from Chicago's West Side to Gary. The rent for a 4-bedroom home is less than Jamison was paying for a 2-bedroom secong-floor apartment in Chicago. And to top it off the Chicago public school her children attended closed.
"The schools closing, the housing, everything in Chicago is why we had to move because it was getting ridiculous," she said.
Jamison is hoping Gary provides her kids with a better opportunity. Jamison is walking into a school system that also has budget problems and layoffs, but so far she and her family like what they see.
"They got everything. They got speech teacher, they got nurses, they got science teachers. It's better," said Terry Cookes, the children's' grandmother.
"When I first went in there, they was nice, they was polite, they wanted me to come in and they were like, 'You can come in here anytime you feel like it,'" Jamison said.
That is exactly what Jamison did when she picked up her kids Wednesday after the first day of school. Eleven-year-old Brittany is hoping for a more challenging school year in Gary.
"I hope I learn more than I did last year," she said. "I knew all the stuff they were doing."
Jamison said she doesn't know a whole lot about Gary, but she does know enough that there is crime there and she notices all of the boarded up homes, and the store fronts. But she said if she can survive the West Side of Chicago, she can survive anything.
+ And she is not alone. The principal of the Gary school Jamison's children are attending said in the past year alone, there have been many Chicago families that have moved across state lines.