A walk in our neighborhoodby Pam Dempsey (Reporter, CU-CitizenAccess.org)
on Mar 25, 2012
A few nights ago, I took the dog next door for a walk around our neighborhood in downtown Danville.
Shadow - the dog - and I have the occasional opportunity to do this whenever her owners go out of town.
It’s good for both of us.
Our route follows a rectangle path.
We go down one street past the bowling alley to the corner of Vermilion and Harrison streets where the Fischer Theatre stands.
Then we turn south on Vermilion, past the antique shops and go west on North Street, where the restaurant for the best halibut went dark a few weeks ago. People say it will soon be an Italian steakhouse.
We then walk past the Masonic lodge, the Methodist church and the genealogical society to Pine Street, where a group once renovated a couple of historic houses.
Our neighborhood is old, with several houses built in the early 1900s and some even before.
There are some properties that could use a little care, and some that could use a lot of care.
There are rental properties and owner-occupied properties.
There are apartments and single-family houses.
There are rich neighbors, poor neighbors and middle-income neighbors.
There are children and grandmas and grandpas.
There used to be a Jiffy Lube in our backyard but that closed last fall.
There is now an auto parts store where a carwash used to be.
These are some of the elements that make up our neighborhood.
On our walk, Shadow and I passed by a preacher and his wife, who were standing on the porch of a low-income apartment building. They were talking to a female resident and giving her a bag of clothes. It was growing dark and the porch light cast shadows across them.
The resident was pulling out items of clothes one by one out as they were talking.
They didn’t see us as we passed by on the opposite side of the street.
I watched them as Shadow sniffed her way along.
I can’t say if this was a big deal to the resident. Maybe it was. Maybe it wasn’t. Maybe she was just being kind about the clothes she received. Maybe she really needed them.
It made me think about something someone said during these last several months while reporting stories on housing for CU-CitizenAccess.org and while working on Housing: A Basic Human Need for Illinois Public Media.
Brenda Eheart is founder of Generations of Hope in Rantoul.
Generations of Hope, or what was originally known as Hope Meadows, is an intergenerational neighborhood that provides support and services to adoptive families.
It's the "social architecture," in addition to the physical architecture, that plays an equal role in quality of life, Eheart said.
And quality of neighborhoods.
"And really what I ask people is to think about how important friends and neighbors and family are to us in our everyday lives and I think for many of us, when we have that, we tend to take it for granted and we don’t think, one how important it really is to us and we don’t think what our lives would be like if we really didn’t have that support," she said.
This has stuck with me since our interview in January.
And I was reminded of it again when I saw the interaction between the preacher and his wife.
Our neighborhood isn’t perfect.
We have our bouts of crime. I think its reputation is much worse than its reality.
But I know I could leave my front door unlocked without worry because my nosy neighbor keeps a good eye on the area.
I know that if I needed a jump start for my car, money for gas, or a ride to the hospital, I have three nearby options.
I know that our neighborhood isn’t perfect.
But it’s a perfect neighborhood for me.