The Hubs and I call our neighborhood West Cracktown. We live on a nice quiet residential street and our neighbors are a nice mix of 30-40-something professionals, older blue collar folks, and a group home for people with disabilities. Every year we have a block party that is really fun (although, it was more fun before the musicians on the block moved away–those were some cool jam sessions) and considering how strong the Seattle Freeze is, we have a pretty good community.
But, our block is very close to a major arterial known for its prostitution and drug activity. There are a lot of no-tell motels nearby where you can rent by the week. Rent by the week is code for “You can stay here when no apartment would rent to you because you look like a bad credit risk/you are a drug addict/you don’t have first and last month’s rent/etc.” When we first bought our house, the closest motel was mostly inhabited by construction workers, immigrant families with kids–folks trying to get themselves sorted so they could move into more stable housing. Perfectly lovely people to wait with at the bus stop on my commute to work. Good neighbors.
Then that motel went downhill and most of the occupants were pimps and hookers and drug dealers. The immigrant families and construction workers were gone. Crime started to be a problem in the neighborhood. Our car was broken into. Condoms started to appear on the street in front of our house–brightly colored ones, like orange or neon yellow. We started hearing news stories about the nearest motel–hookers stabbing their johns, or someone shooting someone else over drugs. Waiting at the bus stop became scarier, so I started riding a different route that was farther away and less nerve-wracking.
Then the nearest motel closed. Suddenly the pimps were gone, and we saw less condoms, and the bus stop wasn’t so scary anymore. That lasted a couple years before the crime settled into another nearby motel. Then our car was broken into again and we began chasing off johns and hookers. Basically, the neighborhood improves, and then falls back into sketchiness, over and over.
Raising kids here has thus required some thoughtful choices, but so far hasn’t been a real problem. In daytime, the neighborhood actually feels 100% safe, because hookers and pimps work the night shift, so you don’t see much of them in the daytime. The folks at the bus stop during daylight hours are usually commuters, or extremely polite homeless people who are kind to the kids and say how cute they are. So, we take the kids to the park to play with the other neighborhood kids, and we let them get in the ditch and all that good stuff. At night, well, our kids are pretty young, it’s not like they’re out roaming the neighborhood at 10PM. And therein lies the rub, because our kids won’t be small forever, and we want them to be able to be out at night without worrying about them. I want them to be able to ride the bus home from a concert without worrying about them getting jumped by a junkie.
And so, in a few years when The Girl starts kindergarten and isn’t going to the awesome perfect daycare by us any more, it will be time for us to move out of West Cracktown. We’ll miss our kind neighbors and our quiet street, but parenting kids of different ages sometimes means you make different choices. And the things that work for a family with young kids may not work for a family with older kids. Yet another reason not to judge other parents for doing it differently than you.