Ed Gilbreath writes an excellent blog, and his post today includes a collection of interesting links I would recommend. One is to an article discussing the gentrification that is happening in my old neighborhood in Portland. Our recent visits to our old neighborhood and church have surprised me by how very much the neighborhood there has changed since we left in 2002.
I realize that the same is true for my old neighborhood in Chicago, and it makes me wonder what the future holds for our little corner of South Central. Already there is a substantial population of “gentrifiers”, and that trend is on the rise both here and in urban centers throughout the nation. Bob Lupton, who has inspired many in our community through his years of ministry in Atlanta, speaks of “reweaving the fabric” of frayed communities by bringing people of resources (read money, education, and power) back into under-resourced communities. In this article, Lupton shares about being confronted with his own identity as a “gentrifier”.
But during prayer and sharing times at our neighborhood church we began to hear prayer requests for housing needs. “Please pray for us – our rents have just doubled.” “Please pray for us – we’ve just gotten an eviction notice.” It wasn’t until Opal, a church member who lived within sight of the church, came in weeping one morning that I first made a disturbing connection. She had just received an eviction notice from the home she had lived in for many years – the city told the landlord to fix it up or board it up and he had decided to board it up until property values made it attractive to sell. For the first time it dawned on me that as my property value was nicely increasing, so was the value of the surrounding affordable homes. As my wealth was accumulating, Opal’s poverty was deepening. It was my investment that was the catalyst for her displacement. I could no longer sit in the circle and pray with integrity. I was the problem!