This morning, I donned my big boots, a pair of industrial work gloves, grabbed a rake and some garbage bags, and walked up my street to a neighbor's house.
The neighbor is in jail, and the house has been empty for about 3 years.
When I say I am a "suburban" farmer/witch/gypsy, I mean it. I live in suburbia somewhere in a city near you. Small ranch house development, built in the 50's. I am farming a small plot of land, and live in a house that is not even 900sq/ft. I live very close to a city, actually, the freeway is about 3 miles from me.
When I moved to this neighborhood, very pregnant with my 16 year old, about 50% of the people living here were original owners. Yep, they bought their houses here when they were brand spankin' new. The houses were well kept, the neighborhood was quaint, and the nearby park was fantastic for me and my two big dogs. It was great for history lessons, not so great for my kids :). When many of these older people either passed away or moved to care, the houses were either rented by their children that lived out of state, or they went into probate hell. Together with the housing bust, my neighborhood quickly became just a little "ghetto". Sadly.
Empty houses began to fill with homeless people looking for shelter. Though I have compassion for the fact that they want to sleep under something, I do not have compassion for what they did to my neighborhood. Trash galore, feces in backyards & broken in homes. Lots of rats :(. Fires. Property & food stolen from our porches & backyards. It go really bad.
I began to get proactive, had the Sheriff on speed dial. When I walked Rex in the park and saw a drug deal or gang activity (seems like they follow the homeless), I was like a Super Spy. Walked on by, memorized license plates & physical attributes, and called the cops. I began attending park board meetings, and raising my voice.
Lastly, I became the lead in the online neighborhood program, Nextdoor.com. I printed flyers and went to all 200 homes in my little quadrant personally. Of those 200, 19 signed on.
It is sad to see the apathy of people in our suburban neighborhoods! People get out of their cars and go into their homes, and do not know anything about the world around their homes. Or they are afraid to do/say anything.
Neighborhoods like mine get lots and lots of business license permits for liquor stores, massage parlors, hookah bars, and check cashing. It is sad, and I do not live in a "bad" neighborhood at all. This was once the "posh" side of town outside of the city limits. The governance people in charge live elsewhere.
We have two empty problem houses down the street. After much discussion online about how the Code Enforcement & County offices aren't doing tiddly shit to take care of things, I sent out a message to my neighborhoods that I would go out there in the morning and pick up the trash myself.
When I got there, two of my neighbors, from other neighborhoods that are linked with ours, were there to help me. THAT is what change is about. PEOPLE make it happen. Not agencies, government, rule makers. Honestly, they get paid not matter what happens to you personally. PEOPLE who care, they are the ones that will make things better. And when PEOPLE become active and start working/talking/celebrating together, neighborhoods really become communities again.
One empty house at a time.......
|Before. This is what I drove/walked by every day. |
|It gets worse around the corner. |
|This is the trash we collected from the front this morning. |
|The difference a little time & work make, eh? Still not beautiful, but cleaner.|
Labels: community, homeless, neighbors, people, vacant homes, vandalism