Us Verses Them

“They purposely keep us out.”

The elderly woman was talking about a barricade set up between two apartment buildings as the gated entrance to a downtown event that charges a $3 entrance fee.  The “rich” people living in the building located just inside the barricade “are welcome” to attend and “get to go free” while “poor” people living in the building right next door are, in her opinion, purposely kept out.  As if charging people who live outside the gate an entrance fee is meant to discourage local people from attending events in their own neighborhood.

It took me a minute to wrap my brain around that.

The location she described would be the best place to set up an entrance gate for an event held on Federal Plaza Central.  I offered logical explanations; she could not be swayed.  As we talked, I realized that a barricade placed between the two buildings represented a lot more to her than just the entrance gate to an event.  She saw it as a wall of separation, physical evidence of discrimination.  They get to go for free, we have to pay.  They are wanted, we are not. Us. Them. Those people. I have heard at least a dozen different people make little comments now and then about us, them, and those people.  Words like:  That’s for those people, not us.  They don’t want us here. They want us gone.

I think it stems from a sense of being excluded from city revitalization efforts.

Maybe some people have watched too many movies with story lines about revitalization of a neighborhood, usually with some underdog fighting to save their home from a wrecking ball.  That is not going to happen here.  No one is trying to push anyone out.

So, the downtown neighborhood is being sold as the hip cool place for young professionals to live, work, and play.   We need an influx of young people just to balance out, to create a vibrant mix of young and old and all types of people.  Right now, the demographics are 83% elderly and/or disabled residents.   Someday, it might be 50/50 or even 70/30.  And it won’t be from displacing old folks… the population is growing.


Quick Lesson:  Revitalization 101

Wells Building (Photo credit:  DJ, age 9)

Wells Building (Photo credit: DJ, age 9)

  See this old building with the cool lacy edge on top (lion heads or gargoyles, not sure which)?
It is the Wells Building.  Thanks to revitalization, it will be saved.

Kress Building (photo credit: DJ age 9)

Kress Building (photo credit: DJ, age 9)

Now see this building?  Or, what is left of this building as it is being demolished.
This is what happens when buildings fall into decline.  It was too far gone to save.

Any questions?

This “US verses THEM” thing has to stop because it is infiltrating my own head.  It’s like when I was walking downtown on a Saturday night and some artsy thing caught my eye.  I almost walked in to ask about it… my stopper was other people’s words in my head:  “Look where you are… that’s for them.”

Whoa.  I need to step out of the box of my own building and become active in my new (as in just moved here last fall) community as a whole before I get sucked into the undercurrent of separatism.  And not just for my own self… if I can help disperse some of this nonsense, so be it.


3 thoughts on “Us Verses Them

  1. It’s a complex issue Nancy and occurs here too, and probably in many if not all North American cities. I volunteer with the homeless, disenfranchised, addicted and mentally challenged. I know their stories, full of us and them and mostly valid as far as I am able to tell. If they dare to venture into areas of the city where their presence is not wanted they are immediately evicted by hired security goons or other unpleasant methods. They are essentially ghettoized so the police can keep an eye on them without exerting themselves and the consumer and tourist interests can maintain a tidy pretense that all is wonderful and well in our city. And then, irony, the same interests gradually move into the ‘ghetto’, revitalize and gentrify and make it too expensive and uncomfortable for the poor who then get shuffled into even older and worse environments and are ostracized even further. I don’t know what it’s like where you live but Vancouver is one of the most affluent cities in Canada. What I’ve ranted about is our hidden shame.
    I hope you can find some way to not get caught up in this attitude of separation and to change the heads of others by helping to eliminate anything that makes it true. Forgive this long rant but it’s a subject close to my heart…Hope you’re doing well apart from this…take care my friend…

  2. Oh definitely, it happens in cities all over everywhere and often enough to script movies. I think Youngstown is in a unique situation because it is not an affluent city with limited space for housing. Our population dropped from 170,000 to ye 65,000 as people left in droves when the steel mills closed in the 1970s and it is slowly coming back around, as a smaller city, with new innovations in technology at businesses located downtown being an important factor in recovering from the loss of industry. I honestly don’t believe residents will be pushed out of a modern building that was specifically built as housing for low income elderly and disabled persons, not when the focus has been on restoring and/or repurposing grand old historical buildings before they are too far gone to be saved.

    Never worry about long rants here… I rant, too. I just don’t rant on yours because your blog feels so professional and well done. 🙂


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