The St Johns Residents Association newsletter summer edition is hot off the press. If you are in the area, keep an eye out, and check your mailbox. I am delivering this batch of newsletters to the fine citizens of St Johns this time around, and stopping to chat with people in the neighbourhood occassionally.
It is interesting walking through the neighbourhood in this way, entering each yard to put the newsletters into the mailboxes. You get a real sense of the resident at each house. Some yards, even in the worst of neighbourhoods, are well tended, fences painted, and gardens blooming. Others, well, it's difficult to step over the refuse to make it to the door.
As I went through the area I came across more and more boarded houses. Then, as I made my way North, the boarded houses were replaced by residences with lock boxes. There are a considerable amount of houses on each street sporting lock boxes at their front doors. Some have "For Sale" signs, others quietly sit, empty of contents and empty of inhabitants.
In a City with such a low vacancy rate, one has to wonder what is going on.
If I had to guess, I would say the landlords are giving up. These boarded houses used to contain renters, but no longer do. I watched as the dumpsters were loaded with more and more garbage from the two houses in the photos, and saw boards being installed over windows. Where houses are damaged from past tenants, they seem to get emptied, then boarded. How many times are these landlords expected to repair the damage to their properties by such disrespecting renters?
In other instances, tenants are possibly evicted, houses cleaned and lock boxes installed in hopes of landlords getting out of the game. Or maybe the lock boxes are evidence of home owners fleeing their own residences for safer or cleaner pastures.
What I am seeing are a lot of empty houses. And I am sure they are all emptying for the same reasons. The owners, whether landlord or occupant, are tired of the actions of criminals, drug dealers, drinking parties, and residents who have no respect for themselves, their homes, their streets, or their communities.
This is the sound of a community screaming for help.
Maybe it is time to have a closer look at the legislation in place protecting bad behaviour on the part of the tenants of these houses.
Perhaps the Police need more authority when dealing with known gang houses and criminal actions.
What if the Safer Communities Act was able to do more than just kick a criminal out of a house, to have them take up residence next door or down the street? How is that helping a neighbourhood?
Could you imagine if there were laws in place to protect a community from these people? If there were, St Johns would not be emptying its houses like rats fleeing a sinking ship.
Or at least that's the way I see it, as I deliver these newsletters, in my part of the North End.