I rolled through Mid and East Phillips yesterday, and West Phillips and Ventura Village today after work on a shoe sighting mission. Not surprisingly, I hit the motherlode. One common pattern of shoefiti spotted in that area is a combination of shoes hanging at the intersection of an alley, and then mid-block within the same alley. To see an example, look at the alley to the West of Bloomington Ave S and South of 26th St E.
What do the shoes hanging from the powerlines mean? I don’t know. But they seem to correlate with some kind of nefarious activity in the area. For example, it certainly wouldn’t be hard to purchase drugs or find a prostitute in that area. Based on the time I’ve spent rolling the streets in that area, it seems like prostitutes more commonly roam the front or streets rather than alleys, so I’m leaning toward a drug correlation or a marker for safe houses for gangs. I could be wrong, but that’s the theory I’m working from now.
A few other observations:
#1: A friend called me while I was in East Phillips, so I pulled over to chat with him for a few minutes with my car idling at 27th and Longfellow. Near the end of my conversation, I noticed a guy had stepped out of his house to see what I was up to. I stepped out to say hello, and he commented that it looked like I was lost. Kind of a nice way of prodding to see what a person was doing idling on his block. He seemed pleasantly surprised to find out that I wasn’t trolling for a hooker or drugs. It’s great to see someone watching suspicious activity like this. He mentioned that he and his partner deal with a drug house on their block, and regular problem with prostitutes (a dead end near his house probably makes for a popular prostitution "office" ). I hope things become quieter for this guy over time. It’s vigilant behaviour like he displayed that will hopefully make it so.
#2: I stopped off along E Lake Street to paint over a few graffiti tags between Bloomington and Cedar before heading home. I’ve been trying to improve the "curb appeal" along E Lake St starting from the Mississippi River and heading West. While covering the tags on a couple vacant buildings, I was approached by a resident living a bit further down the alley I was painting in. He pointed out this his garage had also been tagged by the same "artist" and asked what I’d charge to touch up his property as well. "No charge. Gladly do it." He seemed like a nice guy. Fairly weathered. Mostly grey, around 50, a cig with an inch-long ash, and a little drunk.
It was hard to make out what he was saying because he slurred a bit and kept his cigarrette in his mouth while he talked, but I came away understanding that he moving soon because he was sick of the problems in the neighborhood. It’s always unfortunate to hear people moving because of external reasons like this. One other takeaway was realizing that the guy was renting the property. That likely explains why he spent days staring at the graffiti on his garage rather than simply painting over it himself. He mentioned that his landlord does occasionally come by to clean things up (with his 150ft. extention cord according to the tenant), but he clearly doesn’t come by often enough.
#3: The big difference between guy #1 and #2 listed above is home ownership. I believe the low level of home ownership in this area of town in one of the factors contributing some the blight we see today. The home owner is a nosey neighbor who works to keep his house (and block) safe. The tenant takes a more passive approach, watching his block deteriorate, then moves away rather than taking some pride in his property (which he doesn’t do because it isn’t his property).
#1: How can we get more people like #1 to live in challenged neighborhoods?
#2: What can be done to get people like #2 to act more like #1?
#3: What role to home investors / landlords have in narrowing the divide between #1 and #2?