There’s an issue that’s common to almost all city neighborhoods: A lack of a sense of community.
In peaceful, quiet neighborhoods, that means you don’t know your neighbors.
In the most dangerous neighborhoods, it means the strength in numbers that law-abiding residents might be able to wield against troublemakers just isn’t there.
Battle Creek Enquirer
(Originally published by the Battle Creek Enquirer on January 22, 2006, and used with permission. The opinions expressed by the Battle Creek Enquirer do not necessarily represent those of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.)
‘Here, it’s just sort of ‘make ends meet.”
Chris Lussier, who has gone door-to-door over and over in the Wilson-Coburn neighborhood, knows what it looks like when drug dealing is part of the landscape.
“In the situation over on Seivour Street, about a year and a half ago I went door-to-door…As I was going up and down that street I was just immediately, like, ‘Holy cow, I don’t know that I’ve been in a situation like this in Battle Creek,'” he said. “You definitely felt – you felt like people were hiding some sort of secret down there. You felt like people were cowering in their homes. You felt the fear going up and down that street.”
Lussier earned street credibility as a community connector for Yes we can!, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s long-term initiative to improve education and fight poverty on the city’s grittiest streets. His job was, and remains, looking for ways to help the people help themselves.
Now he’s a neighborhood organizer for the city’s Neighborhood Services Department, newly created by the city, with part of its funding coming from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Yes we can! initiative.
Sitting in his tan Ford Escort on Corwin Avenue on a snowy fall afternoon, Lussier gestured down the block.
“Here, you know, it’s just sort of ‘make ends meet,’ that sort of thing. Some folks on the corner were dealing drugs out of there. Everybody on the street kinda knew it. They complained about it. But the drug stuff that was going on was very quiet, not in the open. No one was engaged in, you know, constant traffic – they tried to stay out of people’s way – but largely it’s been tolerated in this neighborhood.
“On Cleveland Street, it sounded like people had been threatened, but I kinda felt like – I’d go up to their porches, and I see this situation a lot – where you’d go up to the porch and say, ‘How’s it going? How’s the neighborhood?’ ‘Pretty good.’ ‘You been here a long time?’ They’ll talk about ‘Yeah, well it’s come downhill, that’s for sure.’
“But if you try to get them in the present to say ‘This is not a good situation and we shouldn’t be tolerating it,’ they will not talk about it. ‘Well, the drug house is like four houses down.’
“Could you imagine saying that about your house? Where’s the rage? Where’s the anger?”
Longtime Washington Heights neighborhood leader Rosetta Sanders has seen the same detached attitude.
“Most of the people in the community, they’re not proactive, they’re reactionary,” Sanders said. “You can’t get them together unless something really bad’s happening, or something that really concerns them like closing one of the streets or a killing. They just take it in stride.”