Sunday, January 20, 2008

Be Ashamed....

An interesting article on the homeless and local gentrification by David Abel appeared in today's Boston Globe. As usual, some Nouvelle South End residents expressed their displeasure at having to come into contact (well, only visual contact) with, gasp, homeless people!! Can you imagine?! People who have had their parents pay good money so that they could live in a homogenized, white-bread, Pottery Barn inspired community are having to look at filthy homeless people - where they live, where they eat, even where they buy their heirloom tomatoes!! Of course, the Pine Street Inn (a homeless shelter located off of Harrison Avenue in the South End) is to blame for the hordes of homeless causing mayhem in our visual landscape. Check out the article here:

In recent months, a rumor has been spreading through the city that the Pine Street Inn "is on the cusp of closing." As a result, Lyndia Downie, the president of the Pine Street Inn, has been forced to debunk this rumor, adding that it has been persistently spread by people selling real estate in the area.

It is no secret that I find most (not all, but most) South End realtors repugnant and dishonest. This, however, really takes the prize. Let's just whitewash the South End and make it look like Wellesley. I can hear them saying: Yes, it gets plenty of light and its right near the dog park. Don't worry about the homeless people out there, they'll all be gone when the Pine Street Inn closes down in a few months. I know, they really are a pain to look at, but they'll be gone soon!

The article continues to quote some local business (and in this part of town that generally means "restaurant" or "nail salon") owners who have taken certain measures, like raising prices, to keep the homeless away. And by "away", I don't necessarily mean away from the inside of their businesses, but rather away from the visual field of their yuppie customers. One restaurant owner profiled is quite satisfied with the fact that he's been able to reduce the number of homeless customers.

Apparently, its all about reducing the number of homeless customers, not reducing the number of homeless people. That would certainly be more of a challenge (and a whole lot more beneficial to society as a whole). I guess people in the South End have their priorities.

Another one of the article's subjects describes how she has heard the patrons of her yoga studio exclaim, "I don't want to go out to my car late at night. I don't want to go there," in reference to the throngs of homeless clogging the streets much like the zombies in the recent film "I am Legend."

My response? You don't GET to go there!! As I have mentioned on this blog before, like a mantra, get over yourselves! You live in a CITY, not a suburb! You don't get to choose your neighbors and keep in mind: they were there a long, long time before you and your yoga mat showed up. If you choose to live in a city, there is a trade-off. You GET to walk out your front door in the morning and walk to pick up your soy latte within 50 steps of your condo. You GET to buy your heirloom tomatoes without leaving the garage in your Chevy Suburban. You GET to go shopping at the finest shops and boutiques without having to sit in your Suburban stuck in mall traffic. You GET to go to restaurants that drizzle truffle oil on your pea tendrils without having to valet park the car (and, this being Boston, without having to step into a time machine set to 1991). You GET to meet for Sunday brunch without having to pass an Olive Garden on your way there. If you want to be able to walk to your car safely after your evening yoga class, you need to live in Wellesley or Needham. Cities, for the most part, have homeless people and crime. Upscale suburbs, for the most part, do not. If you go out at night to your car in the city, you need to be alert and aware of the fact that there will be homeless people. Its just a fact of life and it has been that way for a very long time. And this despite your yoga mat, heirloom tomatoes, nannies and Burberry scarf. You know you deserve better (the brochure for your condo even says "you've earned it!"), but that's just the way life goes.

Further into the article, a nouvelle South Ender (an accountant) whose nanny has been propositioned for SEX (I kid you not), bemoans his having to see homeless people every day in the vicinity of his Fay Street condo. "It does sort of grate on you," he adds. Clearly another victim of USS ("Upton Street Syndrome,") a condition affecting certain South Enders who feel that, despite the fact that they have moved onto a street with lower than typical condo prices, they can assert the same privileges as those living in the penthouse unit at the Ritz. (See previous posting entitled "Uppity Street," wherein Upton Street residents complained of a home for homeless in transition moving onto their street). It is well-known in the annals (that's two "n's," I'll do the jokes around here) of South End real estate that The Fay Street development was priced considerably lower than the other phases of that condo development. I guess "beggars can't be choosers," at least when it comes to whining about homeless people.

What grates on me is that such a suburban mindset has creeped into the South End in recent years. In the suburbs, you can create gated communities where you can associate and live with cookie-cutter people only, just like yourself. In the South End, it appears that there is a movement to get rid of (and certainly disparage) anyone not quite like the other luxury-condo inhabitants that have recently arrived. Its bad enough if your neighbor doesn't have a maple, granite and stainless steel kitchen. How offensive it must be when your neighbor has no kitchen at all....