A question

When chatting with some folks this weekend the question came up: What do you do when you notice your crackhead neighbor has stolen something from your yard and placed it in their yard?
A. I was shocked (shocked I say) that someone would take something and blatantly display it in their yard.
B. Then I played the devil’s advocate saying it may have been a visitor’s doing, they borrowed and forgot to ask, blah, blah, blah.
C. Suggested going over and asking for the return of the item -OR- calling the cops and having a report filed.

Poverty up close and personal

I was chatting with another DC resident & gentrifier (let’s call him “Bob”) the other day about an aspect of living in a “transitional” neighborhood, the poverty. It is one thing to see the poor and the homeless on the street day to day, it is a whole nother ball of wax to live next door to people who are a mini-disaster away from homelessness.
Bob and his wife live next door to a Section 8 house and have experienced a series of troubled residents. “I’m tired of the crack heads yelling outside,” he moaned, regarding the current neighbor and her visitors. Besides that, he and his spouse have maintained a working relationship with the Section 8 neighbors. The ones before the current one, he suspects there was abuse and drug use. They were a nice enough family, but the husband would come back from the local liquor store with a bottle in a black bag and later that night there might be a ambulance to take away the father-in-law. The family would say it was the FIL’s health but Bob suspected elder abuse at the hands of the drunk husband. Then there were other things. When they family members hit Bob & wife up for money. At first it was small change that was quickly returned, then it became $10, $20, $30 and so on, that was never returned. So Bob decided to not lend them money because the excuses/lies were getting kinda blatant. He felt bad for the family, but he didn’t want to become an ATM either.
This whole living next to poor people is really new for him. He and his wife had your typical American middle class white suburban upbringing, where poor people were distant. In recent years he’s becoming more familiar with the poor’s plight but also their failings (okay maybe living near crackhead Section 8s not the best way but that’s what he’s got). Sympathy mixed with a load of frustration and downright annoyance.
This is poverty. Up close, and personal. It is next door. You can’t just pass it by on the street and think nothing of it 10 seconds later. It is there, where you live, and there is no escaping short of moving out. Second hand you experience the problems of poverty and there is nothing you can do to take your neighbors out of their predicament, and you know it. *sigh*

This IS a great neighborhood

Once you get past some of the houses and some of the people with chemical problems, and you stick around a while, you will discover that this is a great neighborhood.
Why?
The people. People make a neighborhood all worth while, of course a good coffee shop or other neighborhood hang out helps too.
I’m in this I love my neighborhood mood because something dear has been returned to me, my palm pilot. I lost it on the street, my street, getting out the car. Apparently a fellow named Larry found it. He contacted some of the people in the address book (note: remove some people) and one was a neighbor who picked it up and returned it.
The palm wasn’t the first thing I lost around here. I have lost my wallet a couple of times. Once the wallet was returned to me by a kindly old lady who lived on 5th Street, showing me the importance of having your business cards in your wallet is a good thing.
I need to learn to keep up with my stuff better.

Or I could move

My architect neighbor, who I admire and adore, and his partner came over for dinner. The purpose besides neighborliness was to talk about possible additions to our homes. These additions would not show up until well into the future (ie when we pay off our second mortgages).
We were talking and though it I believed I heard their concerns. From what I heard I understand it would be preferred if I didn’t build to the property line. Ok. Well I guess I have to scratch a certain idea. Oh well.
The thing that got me was the ballpark figure given for what I’d like to do, with smaller footprint. $300,000. Dang. For that amount of money I could move. If it does cost that amount I would move into something newer and roomier. I was thinking $100,000 and that’s taking in cost overruns and working around the kitchen. The price I heard for some other neighbors to put on their addition, $35K, maybe I could do it in my range.
He did suggest something I will take into consideration, doing one side of the house. The additions I want would be for the back of the house. He suggested doing what I need to do to the front of the house first. Fixing the windows and doors and expanding the space of the bathroom. Ok. That sounds do-able.

Crime prevention & DM noise update

Walking around I noticed something in the alley, the developers/contractors finally put bars up behind their house. The problem was the rear of the house had an unsecured entry from the alley. So I’d see kids, teens, bums going into this house’s alcove to do whatever. The slow progression of the owners ‘getting it’ probably started when they found people in the basement, which was open to all from the alley. Developers of Shaw, just because it isn’t visable from the street at 30 mph, doesn’t mean anyone isn’t going to notice that the door doesn’t have a lock. So over time I noticed damage to the building as it was undergoing stop/start contruction. The back door had a broken window, and so that got boarded up. I’m going to take a wild guess that there were break ins. I know, the house is empty why break in? Shelter. Contractor tools. Building materials. Later the basement got closed off. The alcove, however remained open so it could still provide shelter to a homeless person, or temporary office for a hooker. Now finally, that is closed off and teens and crackheads can stay out.
Thinking of crime prevention I always thought we could do with these signs I saw in London. Well the Kew Gardens section of London, because they weren’t in Wimbinton. Simply reminding people to not leave things in cars. I so wanted to steal one of those signs and take them back to the States, but figured it bad form to steal a crime prevention sign.
\\\\The music ended about 8:30pm. I did not call the cops.

Citizen empowerment

Confession time: I used to be a registered Republican. There are moments I feel that I have that are purely Republican moments in Shaw. Usually they are summed up as, taking matters in your own hands when you don’t believe the gov’ment won’t do it right/at all/ on time/ etc.

I have these feelings during community meetings when folks demand that DPW clean the alleys and the sidewalks and other littered areas and keep the bums off their property. With all due respect to the city government of the District and it’s many departments, the City can be disappointing. Yet on the other hand, citizens really need to take some responsibility and take on some burdens to improve their environment and not wait for the government to do it for them.

Now, I am not advocating that people break the law, endanger their lives, or encroach on others rights and freedoms. There are things that only the state/govt has the right to do, such as arrest, tax, and transfer rights and freedoms. No citizen has that right or should. No. What I want people to do is salt their sidewalks when it snows. I want them to volunteer to clean the street gutters when the Weather Service says there might be flooding. I want them to take responsibility for their children and property. I want them to consider working together, neighbor to neighbor, on a one block level to tackle problems and concerns.

I love my block because people do things that others may believe is something for the government to deal with. We have alley cleaning man. Who is he? I dunno? But he takes it upon himself to sweep up the alley, post no dumping signs, and clean up the alley. B. cleans the sidewalks, whenever. Maybe once a week, a month, a quarter, but he helps keep the neighborhood nice. Lem, is the handyman who (possibly with marketing in mind) keeps an eye on repairs that need to be made on the block, helping with the upkeep. For a while the block had an informal Welcome Wagon to help orient new homeowners, providing community information. For my own part I patched a fence of a vacant property to keep out the illegal dumpers. With a neighbor we (I don’t recommend it) confronted a crackhead about smoking in a backyard. Some deal with trees, planting and trimming, things that with the patience of Job, one could wait for the city to do. Some help with enforcement by gently reminding neighbors of infractions. In winter, B. and I shovel, salt and sand the sidewalks.

Now we don’t take on large tasks by ourselves. Just small ones, that add to the livability of the block. So when I hear complaints from folks in other parts of Shaw complaining that the city should do this, or the city should do that when this and that are things a civicly minded citizen could tackle. Citizens should empower themselves, even if they just limit themselves to caring for their little section of the block, they have done a lot.

So if you can, maybe this weekend or next….
Clean out your treebox
Pick up some of the sidewalk litter
Tidy up the front yard
Secure your property
Talk to a neighbor
Check on the elderly down the block
Engage a conversation with some of the neighborhood youths
Try to find the owner of the vacant house on the block

Not the whole list. Pick one. And do it.

Neighbors

Neighbors
So I’m outside staining my fence. I tried using the pressure sprayer, but I think I ruined it since the stain protectorant is too thick. I had to use the old cup and brush method.

The whole time I’m out there doing 2 panels worth, from 5:30 till after dark, the house across the alley is nothing but screaming. She’s screaming at her, someone screaming at the kids, loudness, agruing and being very vocal for about 2 hours straight. I hear threats “What you going to throw at at me?”. I hear commands. I hear declarations. I hear cursing. The whole gamut. If there was a murder and the cops were to ask me, what were they fighting about? I would have no clue. About a guy someone was dating? Getting the kids to eat? There was no singular topic.

It’s not really worth noting except I was out there for the whole time. Normally I hear the yelling and screaming. But I don’t stick around long and I’m back in my own environs with the window shut and the sound of the neighbor’s spirited discussion muted.

Trading Up
I told my neighbor I wouldn’t tell anyone how much she’s selling her house for, so I won’t. But it is a sh*tload of $$. She deserves every single cent of it. She lived in the house for a little under 9 years. She’s going to trade in a townhouse with leaky basement and no parking for a house with a yard and a garage in BFE Maryland. All the cool stuff in the city that is attracting people means nothing to her. She has a car and kids. Metro and clubs don’t mean squat. Good schools and no shooting and no (as my Daddy would put it) dumbas$ n*ggas hanging out, that is what she wants and needs.
At the price the house is going for apparently only whites can afford it, so the demographics of the block will head in a particular direction. Called ET and told her to score one point for her people. Last month a white couple moved in on one end of the block, changing the trend of houses on the north end changing demographically from black renters to white homeowners and renters, so now the Euro-Americans are coming from both ends.
I am so thankful she did not decide to rent the house out to get Section 8 money. I pray to G-d above that Mr. Mesfin will sell his house too. Last I spoke to him he STILL had not decided if he was going to rent or sell. I hope he sells because I can tell he’s cheap and will be a slumlord.

Neighbors moving
Pam, my next door neighbor has been saying she’s going to sell/rent and move away for a while now. I saw her husband chatting with Sonny (evil, evil, evil African contractor) and I knew, they are serious about selling now. She wants more space, a yard for the kids to run around in, and she wants to get John, who is such a good kid, away from these bad chullun (children) who take advantage of John’s goodness. Yup, no doubt, the kids around the neighborhood act like they have had no home training. Kwan, trouble finds that kid. I have had to pull him out of a fight and have observed him doing wrong. When I call him on it, he pulls the angelic act out and claim it wasn’t him.

I hope they do not sell to an investor. I surely hope they don’t rent it out to Section 8. I hope she doesn’t rent it out, and hopefully she won’t cause she was going off on Section 8 people, about how Drama Momma only pays $30 for rent, and how the children there misbehave.

Of course, the way things are going if she does sell it, most likely a white couple will move in. We have 6 white households on our side of the street already. One Hispanic family, one Howard University student group house with a range of minority students (if we become a student ghetto, I am soooo outta here), one bi-racial household (friends? Lovers? I have no clue), 1 African/Nigerian household (when he’s in the country), and 8-9 African-American household, 2 of which are section 8. I love the diversity.