Tell me about life in south suburban Chicago

The Chicago forums seem dead, so I’ll ask here.

I’m considering a job that requires residency in Homewood.

Chicago, like my hometown of Buffalo, seems like a city where most of the “buzz”, for lack of a better word, is on the north side of the city and the northern suburbs. There’s the cluster of cultural institutions in Hyde Park, but aside from that I wonder if life in the southern 'burbs would feel … well, isolated.

I’m Jewish. I know that 95% of Chicago’s Jews live northish, but there’s a Reform synagogue in Homewood, and some scattered around northwest Indiana. I did know a Jewish woman in Cleveland who was originally from Country Club Hills, so I’m guessing south suburban Jews aren’t completely fish out of water.

I know Homewood. Flossmoor and communities along the same Metra line are multi-culti; I enjoyed a similar environment in east suburban Cleveland for several years. When the time comes, I’d prefer to raise a family in a more diverse, but still stable community.

So, those in south suburban Chicago: do you like it? Were you born and raised there, or did you move there by choice? Do you feel isolated or bored compared to your friends and family members up north? Would being a Cubs fan get me in trouble?

Well the southside of Chicago is the baddest part of town.

I grew up on Chicago’s South Side and the southern suburbs too.

Homewood is a nice place. The south side is pretty dirt cheap to live. The thing is the jobs on the southern suburbs are low pay. You can find good deals and sure there are awful places like Harvey and Phoenix but you can easily spot these places with a simple visit.

The Metra Electric provides the best suburb - city commuter rail of any of Metra’s branches. It takes about 30 minutes to go from the southern suburbs to downtown in good traffic.

There are good hospitals and the schools are OK, depending on where you live.

Country Club Hills is OK but really declined from it’s heyday when it was a very nice upscale place. It’s OK but a far cry from what it once was.

The nicer suburbs include Lansing, South Holland, Homewood, Olympia Fields. Matteson, Richton Park, Park Forest, Hazel Crest, Calumet City, Glenwood all have equally nice parts and some “iffy” areas.

When I say “Iffy” I would say about housing prices and economic development rather than crime. Harvey and Phoenix are the worst for crime. Chicago Heights is another example of really nice areas and awful parts.

Ford Heights is a disaster all around and it pretty much a place for people on relief.

I recall back in the 80s I had a couple of friends who lived in Ford Heights, and I was a white guy in a K-Car and when I’d go to visit them, I’d get swamped by the drug dealers trying to sell me stuff. I never felt threatened, because I’d say I’m here to visit Jean and they all knew that then I was OK so they left me alone.

Just spend a day in a car and drive around, you’ll quickly see there are some really good bargains there. And you can see the bad areas too.

The border communities in Indiana, Hammond, Munster and Dyer are very nice.

Honestly I don’t think you’ll feel any more isolated in the south suburbs than you would in the north suburbs or the west suburbs. Homewood is a nice place to raise a family. It’s not a hip, happening part of town that would be of particular interest to an outsider, necessarily (as you note, those places are generally located on the north side of Chicago), but if you’re not into that sort of scene, Homewood would suit you fine. I live on the Southwest Side of Chicago proper, and most people from this area tend to move out in that direction after starting their families out here. Homewood-Flossmoor has got a very good school district, a low crime rate, good library, decent city center with enough restaurants and pubs to keep people entertained (Flossmoor Station is one of the best brewpubs in American, if you’re into that sort of thing.) Make no mistake about it–it’s definitely got a suburban Chicago feel to it, but it’s got more character than a lot of suburbs. If you want to head into town, you’ve got a Metra right there to take you into the city.

So, a good place to live, but if you want to be in the center of the action, it’s definitely not going to be that for you.

I grew up in Country Club Hills. I still have family in unincorporated Flossmor and Chicago Heights (which is more southeast suburbs but next door to Homewood). That was was my stomping ground until I left for college.

The information here might be a bit out of date. I haven’t lived there in about 15 years.

A lot of neighborhoods around Chicago are defined by which high school they feed into. Homewood will feed into either Homewood-Flossmor (HF) or Bloom. Historically, HF - and consequently the neighborhoods that fed into HF - has been considered to be more affluent than Bloom.

HF was known for having a rather large Jewish population but they may have been primarily from the Olympia Fields area. Olympia Fields also fed into my High School (Rich Central - for those who care) and that was were all my Jewish friends lived.

[tangent] That said, my closest friend where I live now is a Jewish guy that grew up in Homewood - so there ya go. [/tangent]

Like I said above, I no longer live in the immediate area, but I regularly drive through to visit family. I see more gang graffiti and run down houses than when I grew up there. If I had to move to Homewood in particular, I would try to stay east of Governor’s Highway. Possibly as near to downtown Homewood by the Homewood and Metra station as possible - around 183rd St.

Downtown Homewood has a lot of shopping and dining options. Aurelio’s pizza is some of the best pizza in the world. The closest shopping mall is Lincoln Mall in Matteson (pronounced MAT-son, don’t pronounce the “e”) but last time I was there it catered to a more African-American clientele carrying fashions that were representative of the hip-hop culture. But there are still plenty of restaurants and other stores around the mall (I recommend Perros Bros. at the intersection of Governor’s Hwy and Rt. 30 and get the Big Baby burger) that have a wider selection. Otherwise you can hop on I-80 and head out to Schereville, Indiana or Orland Park for other malls.

One more thing - take 183rd to Halsted St. - Homewood’s eastern border - and you’ll find the shining jewel of upper midwest cuisine, White Castle.

I grew up in the northwest suburbs, worked for a long time in Olympia Fields, and now work up on the North Shore. As far as things to do, there isn’t much difference from one to the next. It’s not quite as easy to get into the city from the south suburbs, because a lot of the action is in the Lincoln Park/Wrigleyville area, as you say, but the South Loop is getting more built up with things to do, and River North is pretty vibrant, as well.

Probably my biggest concern if I were you would be that the Jewish community is not as large and vibrant as you can find on the north side, and your choice of synagogue is going to be limited.

Couple things here. It pains me to say it, but pretty much forget Lincoln Mall. It’s hardly worth the trip anymore. They are building up the outlying mall areas, though. Unfortunately, for any major shopping you’ll need Orland or maybe Frankfort. Also, Shadowfyre, what’s with this “don’t pronounce the ‘e’” thing? If you grew up around here you should know better. That’s a three syllable word, that is. :slight_smile: MAT-e-son.

Oh, yeah! Worth the trip, although we get gyros there, but my son loves the Big Baby.

I’m late to the fair here, but seriously, the southern suburbs are a great deal and a good place to live. I went to HF, and still live in the area. The Metra is a great commuter service into the city: cheap, convenient and reliable. The HF area is quite stable while still being diverse. Both elementary districts that feed into HF high school are good. People are neighborly and quiet. We do have local theater, film groups, an excellent Park District and plenty of recreational places/leagues. Lincoln Mall is struggling, true, but it still has an Old Navy, a Carson’s and a Target and Penney’s nearby. Bamboo Blue and Belagio’s are 2 restaurants that are as good as anything you’ll find downtown Chicago. Flossmoor Station has award winning micro-brews. Aurelio’s is a classic (I used to work there, back in the day).

There has been some white flight to Frankfort, Mokena and Crete. IMO, they are just that much more out of the city to be inconvenient for regular commutes. Also,
Tinley Park, Orland and Frankfort seem to love strip malls. Ugh. YMMV, of course. Park Forest was one of the first planned communities post WW2 and made a point of being racially diverse even then. Frankly, I am glad I live in a fairly racially balanced area. People in Chicago can be very strange about race, but that’s another thread…

Come on down! You are quite welcome.

I was born, raised, and reside on the NW side of the city (and work in the NW suburbs) but I’ve always been fond of the south side of the city and suburbs. One of the hidden advantages you’ll have over us northerners is that you’re a very short ride from Michigan’s Red Arrow Highway and the beautiful coastal towns of Western Michigan, starting at New Buffalo and going north from there.

Not quite sure I qualify as “south suburbs” - I live in unincorporated Lake County, Indiana, in a “township” that is at time attached to Gary (my mailing address, for example, is Gary but the school district is Griffith and only the country cops answer 911 around here, no city police at all. That sort of thing.)

Anyhow - by the time you get out to Merrillville, Griffith, Schererville and the like it’s start to feel less “Chicago” and more small town or even sort of rural. I do feel a bit isolated at times. However, as long as you have a car you can easily drive to all those other places that are less isolated. There’s less ethnic eating, less choice in the grocery store, and that sort of thing. But we’re not really cut off, just sort of on the fringe of things.

I agree with staying away from Ford Heights. It’s sad more than anything else, but not a place I’d want to live (not that Gary is wonderful, either, but at least Gary still has some decent neighborhoods).

There are Jews out here, but not a lot - the area has a definite conservative Christian bent to it. There is also some rather blatant anti-Semitism at times which I find offensive (but hey, no matter where you are there’s some crap in the neighborhood). They won’t run you out of town, it’s just a small minority, but like I said, it’s 1960’s level in-your-face at times.

I guess what I’m saying is that you might not want to look much past the western half of Lake County, Indiana. I mean, you CAN live here, my little NeoPagan self has been pretty happy here, but I’d be lying if I didn’t point out there are better places to be in the area.

I really wanted to, I did! Thing is, the deadline for the job passed about three weeks ago, and I didn’t hear anything. I’m assuming I’m not a candidate, so no south suburbs for now. :frowning: