Friday, February 09, 2007

neighborhood action renovare: i.e. my first sermon

I’ve lived in my neighborhood for about 5 years now—just a little nitch on the East side. And as I started meeting my neighbors, I’ve learned how our neighborhoods have become less and less cohesive. Crime has gone up as population density increases and neighborhoods have become more transient. Those of you who have been here a long time have seen some of that fluctuation.
Yet we as a community of people need to combat those negative forces out there. We need to know our neighbors. We need to smile and say hi every day. We need to know who owns the property next door. We need to know if they are refinishing their kitchen or their bathroom.
And the best way to find that out is to have a cup of tea with them.

It’s basic and very simple. But this is how you find out if there’s somebody in the neighborhood that shouldn’t be there. It’s so that you know whether or not the truck that just pulled up next door—with the guys walking in and out with copper pipe—whether they are doing repairs or stripping the house for copper scrap. It’s how you report delinquent behavior of youth and children to their parents. It’s how you find support in your own time of need. It’s how you find out about the unpublicized sex offenders. It’s how I found out about the unpublicized sex offender who lived next door—through an open window. Later, his face was on the front page of the newspaper.

Sometimes it takes a lot of effort to get to the point where you can call your neighbor your friend. Sometimes it takes years. And block clubs and walking groups are only a small but vital piece in what it takes to be a unified community. We need to be in a block club before a problem happens but sometimes the problem becomes the catalyst.

NAC would like to help you organize whatever it is you need for your particular neighborhood. But the two things we are starting with is: (1) Registering block clubs and helping residents who don’t have block clubs form them. (2) learning how to put pressure on the city inspectors who enforce code violations for the nuisance property next door or the police calls it gets. And if you are already up to speed with both these items in your neighborhood—You are a community leader and need to be taking us to the next level of community building, networking and crime prevention.

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