It was not until after I graduated from college that I really began to pay attention to all the violence, drug activity and prostitution that had begun plaguing my very own neighborhood. The very same streets that I played on as a child have become a dwelling place for a myriad of illegal crimes. Many have attributed this decline in “quality neighborhoods” to the increasingly high number of renters that have begun moving into vacated homes.
Corey Givens, Jr.
Often times, renting has been a pass into the housing market for those who have either recently relocated, have just started out on their own, or perhaps they are lacking the financial capital to buy a home. The negative connotation that has come along with renters is that they are not as invested in their communities, as homeowners are.
In my neighborhood of Lakewood Terrace, we’ve seen our share of highs and lows. Homeowners who once resided here have either moved into nursing homes or passed away, leaving us with a depleted neighborhood association. We have struggled to find effective ways to make renters want to take pride in their homes and actively become a part of the neighborhood.
I didn’t want to be a spectator; I wanted to be a participator. I went to Councilman Karl Nurse and requested that something be done to help reorganize the Lakewood Terrace Neighborhood Association and restore it to its former glory. Nurse put me in contact with longtime community activist Edna Barnes, who then assisted me in organizing our neighborhood’s inaugural fall picnic.
Sat., Nov. 21, association members joined other neighbors for a picnic at the Lakewood Terrace Neighborhood Park. From 1-4 p.m., roughly 30 to 40 neighbors gathered to celebrate the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday with FREE food, FREE drinks and FREE entertainment, all thanks to the labors of community leaders and a mini grant from the City of St. Petersburg.
Picnic attendees ranged from ages one to 85. There were activities for everyone to participate in: a bounce house, flag football, hula-hoops and card games.
This picnic brought out homeowners as well as renters, resulting in five new association memberships.
For me, the most sentimental part of the picnic was seeing our neighborhood patrol officer, Dennis Kelly, play football with myself and a group of young men from the area. Officer Kelly stayed throughout the entire picnic and gave neighbors an update on what was going on in Lakewood Terrace as it relates to crime. Police reports have declined from 350 to 90 calls a month, much of which is accredited to a greater police presence and a stronger neighborhood watch.
It’s my opinion that we fail to recognize the good things that are being done here in St. Pete. It warms my heart to see our community putting the “neighbor” back in the “hood!”