Someone brought to my attention this week news of a plan to build a rehab center just blocks from my home. Apparently it will include 86 beds, and some locals are deeply disturbed by this plan – insisting that the center be moved to a more distant (more affluent) neighborhood. Some of the reasons cited: that my neighborhood already attracts low-income individuals involved in crime, drug use, or vagrancy (aka homelessness).
I was asked my thoughts on this issue. It’s a tough one. I do want to live in a safe environment and am cautious when I go out to walk the dogs at night, or otherwise find myself walking alone. As a homeowner I also have a vested interest in maintaining the value of my home and the neighborhood as a whole.
On the other hand, it seems to make a lot of sense to situate this new agency right here: in the neighborhood where the people who most need it are likely to already be. (That is, of course a pragmatic response. Situating the new rehab center in that other area would be 1. too costly, 2. a deterent to the folks who are already here who depend upon those services, and who would then have to walk all that way to get the help they need.)
But I have another response as well – one that is driven by the religious values that prompt me to focus on a spiritually grounded understanding of “neighborhood”. From that perspective I can’t help but think of homogenous neighborhoods not only as utterly boring, but an outright negation of the diversity that defines human existence and experience.
I don’t want to be accosted, but I don’t want to live in Disneyland (or Stepford) either. I consider the people who pull cans and bottles out of my trashcan “neighbors” – and a tangible reminder of the following:
1. my own good fortune,
2. the responsibility this puts on me to help (not hinder) those less fortunate.
All of this is uncomfortable sometimes. But it seems to me that discomfort means my conscience is at work. And that, I have to think, is a good thing.