Challenges

The house tour got interrupted by some disappointing happenings in the neighborhood this past week…plus, I need to take some better photos of the rooms. You’re due for a garden update as well! Sit tight. I’m in a busy phase of life right now and I haven’t done the greatest job of managing my time.

Anyway, Boo and I have had to work through some disappointing challenges that we really weren’t expecting. When we committed to moving into an urban neighborhood, we knew there would be challenges. We knew this wasn’t the suburbs, it wasn’t a rural farm town. People are people, and when you have a larger amount of them living together you will inevitably run into challenges that you wouldn’t otherwise face if you were living in a more isolated area.

We thought our challenges would look like trying to figure out what to do with a drug house on our street, or a string of break-ins happening on the block. We thought we would be navigating the difficult waters of trying to address problematic symptoms of poverty within our community.

What we didn’t expect was having to see very blatant hatred towards people that look and live differently than us.

Our neighborhood is beautifully diverse – we have four or five different ethnicities represented, a wide range of ages and many different phases of life. Most of us are homeowners, but there are some rentals. Some have lived in the neighborhood for 10+ years, and some of us have only been around for a couple of years.

On our particular block, people seem to flow really well together. Everyone waves and smiles in passing, most of us know each other’s names (and even the names of our dogs) and it’s fairly often that you see kids playing up and down the street. No, it’s not a utopian vision of perfect diversity, but I feel really, really lucky to live where we live.

As I mentioned, we went to our first Neighborhood Watch meeting a couple of months ago. One thing that stuck out to me and made me a bit uncomfortable was that, although our neighborhood is very diverse, about 90% of the people who attended were white, long-term homeowners. Our neighbors and a woman who oversees a group home in the far southern half of the neighborhood were the only none-white people present. Throughout the meeting, most of the group was VERY vocal about how important it was to keep our neighborhood quiet and maintain a certain way of life. They bragged about how they had refused to let a church purchase a vacant building because it would mean people going in and out in the evenings and making too much noise. They made a lot of negative comments about teenagers walking through the neighborhood and hanging out on porches.

Now, granted, I am all for banding together as a community to address PROBLEMS. If there are fights breaking out, drive-by shootings, thefts and drug issues, these things SHOULD be addressed with the entire neighborhood behind a solution.

But since when did a lack of “quiet” become a problem?

An inner-city church, or kids hanging out on a porch could possibly mean a bit more noise, sure. It might be a representation of a culture that looks a little bit different from what a white, long-term homeowner is used to.

But they do not have to interpreted as a problem and something to banned from our neighborhood.

Another thing that they discussed at the meeting was the group home – they were in the process of having their permit renewed and it was up to people in the neighborhood to voice their opinions about it. One thing that I really respected at the time was that a) the woman overseeing the group home made a real effort to connect with the people at the meeting and b) the neighborhood watch captain was pretty neutral in his recommendations for people to voice their opinions.

Jason and I both signed up for the e-mail list so that we could keep in touch with the happenings. Well, thus far, I have yet to get a single e-mail from them. Jason has been getting them, and has even asked the neighborhood watch captain to be sure to add my name, and I still don’t get them. Eh. I guess I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt on this one and hope that it’s an honest oversight.

But the part that really got to us, this week especially, was that as time went on, the e-mails regarding the group home became less and less neutral. We drive by it every day on our way home from work, and we have never once seen anything suspicious or concerning. Believe me, we’ve lived on blocks with problem houses and we know what they look like, and this house has been anything but that for the entire time we’ve lived here.

Granted, we are very new to the neighborhood. Bearing this in mind, Boo actually called the organization that oversees the group home and asked about the past history of its interactions with the neighborhood. Apparently, last year there was one resident (ONE) who was staying out past curfew and causing a few issues. That person has since moved on and there haven’t been any major issues since then.

Our mutual feeling was that our neighborhood was the BEST place for this group home to continue. We have so much stability and community to offer. The home was a good use for a not-so-desirable property near a busy road that wouldn’t attract a good homeowner otherwise. And, I mean, heaven forbid we might be able to learn something from the lives of the residents who are on their own journeys to health and stability. We wrote a letter to the licensing board and stated our support.

Well, the e-mail tirade from the neighborhood watch culminated this week with some all caps sentences about TAKING OUR NEIGHBORHOOD BACK and WE’VE HAD ENOUGH!!! WE HAVE TO PRESERVE OUR WAY OF LIFE!

Because, you know, a quiet group home full of women in transition is a big threat to our way of life.

The hearing took place on Wednesday evening. Boo and I had other commitments, so we couldn’t attend. I’m pretty certain they will not be able to renew their license in our neighborhood, based off of the negative attitude from people on the neighborhood watch.

It makes me mad. And it makes me really sad, too. Hateful self-preserving biases are not something I thought I would have to encounter as an urban homesteader. I’m ashamed that most of the people who represent these biases are white homeowners who have been given a lot of resources and opportunities – exactly who I am. I’m sad that the whole community – not just the select few block watchers, didn’t feel the need to express an opinion as well. I’m sad that an encounter with people different than us has to be something that was so feared.

I’m tempted to rebel and start an anti-neighborhood watch. Something that welcomes those who are different. Something that celebrates what we are instead of fighting so hard to preserve it. Something that showcases all the freaking amazing things about the neighborhood instead of sitting around discussing one “bad” house or one “bad” teenager.

But I know that’s not the solution. I don’t really know what the solution is, but we’re going to try to contact someone from the CCDA and get some feedback on how to proceed. I think we’re going to have to continue to engage with these people, even if their opinions make me really uncomfortable. I think we’re also going to have to graciously bring our own opinions into the mix. One thing we’ve considered is creating a sort of sub-committee on the Watch that highlights all of the GOOD things about the neighborhood at every meeting – something we saw a neighbor do for someone else, someone who is ill and needs some care that we can provide, etc. I mean, really, you have to be pretty darn nasty to refuse someone wanting to share positive things about your neighborhood, right?

Despite this, I’m certain that we are exactly where we need to be right now. I know this is an area that we will grow in and learn from.

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One Comment to “Challenges”

  1. 😦 that’s so yucky. i’m sorry. i’m glad God brought you two to that neighborhood; you will be a light when others try so hard to spread darkness.

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