Good neighbors

By Edith Morgan

WE have often heard it said that “Worcester is a city of neighborhoods”. And a cursory examination of our city certainly seems to bear out this observation: we have rich and poor ones, ethnic ones, older ones and newer ones. It seems that many people choose to live near those most like themselves, in some important respects – similar incomes, similar religious beliefs, similar age, similar color, similar language, and many other kinds of similarities that draw people together, when they have a choice.

But regardless of these superficial similarities, some features of a neighborhood are the same, regardless of the differences between them. We all want to live in a comfortable, clean, safe homes, where we can move about freely, walk our pets, run or walk for exercise, invite friends and family, and generally go about our business without fear.

We do have our “crime watch” groups, and we keep an eye out for potential trouble. But we are very fortunate that we do not have armed, self-appointed “guardians” roaming our neighborhoods, deciding who “belongs” and who does not. We act more in lieu of the old-time “nosy neighbor”, who knew who everyone was, and who reported to concerned families what their sometimes errant children were up to.

But the best protection any neighborhood has is provided by its residents, especially those who have a vested interest in keeping the area livable; and usually, that means those who OWN the homes they live in. Whether it is a triple decker or a single family home, if the owner lives right there, the chances of trouble developing are so much slimmer – an owner has a vested interest in taking care of the property, seeing that tenants meet expectations, and above all, are likely to stay there long enough to get to know the neighbors, develop a network of cooperative efforts to keep the street safe, clean, and in good repair. There is strength in numbers, as many of us who have worked to improve things in our corner of the city have learned.

So I have been very dismayed that the great  work of the CDCs and other groups working to rehab and make economically-stressed families successful first-time home owners has been slowed down so much …..Putting young families into decent housing, enabling them to become committed neighbors and homeowners – isn’t that what we want for our city? I have nothing against renters – most of our students are roomers – but they are also better off is they live in an owner-occupied place.

WE still have so many houses standing empty, quietly deteriorating as they sit unused, a constant threat to their neighborhoods, as squatters, drug users, thieves, and others are attracted to these unfortunate buildings…How much better it would be if we could rapidly match those in need of a home with these places, provide the training and the initial funding, welcome them into our neighborhoods. Many years ago there was a program called “Welcome Wagon”- perhaps we could welcome new arrivals, share our experiences in our area, and show them by example what it takes to build and maintain a good neighborhood. My experience has always been that people will treat you as you treat them.  My earliest memories are of my mother baking something and taking it around to introduce us to our neighbors, While we wer never again able to have a house (fleeing during WWII) we were always taught that where you live is your home, and you take care of it.

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