The Rising Sun Avenue corridor has gone through a drastic change in the eyes of the people who have lived there all their lives. A community that once was solely described as a close-knit, working class residency is now suffering from a spate of robberies, violence and an overabundance of trash and unkempt houses.
Kathy Wersinger of Councilwoman Marian Tasco’s office is a 55-year-resident of the area and believes the problem to be renters.
“People that rent houses for a profit and don’t worry about the condition of them as long as they are receiving their monthly check,” contribute to the decline in quality of life, she said.
George Roach, a photojournalist at Fox29, was a resident of Lawncrest for more than 36 years. He started realizing something had changed when he started finding himself being a news journalist in his own neighborhood and on his own street. He attributes the change to renters also, but goes further to pinpoint Section Eight housing as the problem.
“Section Eight is people who rent and the government pays for the rent; it’s a federally subsidized rent,” Roach said. “If I had my rent paid, I wouldn’t have pride of ownership because I wouldn’t be tied to the property.”
The recent cleanup of Rising Sun Avenue served as a solution to the ongoing struggle for cleanliness, and was intended to lift morale and pride in the community. The need for a massive cleanup speaks for the neighborhood at large. Most participants could not understand or not put into words why trash could not be picked up on a daily basis.
Wersinger acknowledged she wouldn’t be a participant if she knew why people couldn’t pick up their own trash.
“People are people; people throw trash so how we have to educate everyone to clean up, I don’t know,” Wersinger said. “If you start at home, it should spread out into the community as well. But obviously it doesn’t always work that way.”
Matt Taubenberger of the Burholme Civic Association said the trash stems from people who don’t care about the community, and don’t care about the neighborhood.
“They’ll buy something and they’ll just throw it on the street when they are done with it,” Taubenberger said. “And we have a lot of local businesses that sweep up in front of their shops every day, but eventually it just gets to be too much.”
Roach said he would never litter on the Avenue because he grew up there. He has a sense of respect for the community that he believes is what is currently missing from residents.
“When I lived in the neighborhood, businesses didn’t have to self-defend themselves,” Roach says. “I never saw the spike in crime when I lived there that you see now.”
Nicole Dalrymple is a student working for Temple University’s Philadelphia Neighborhoods publication, a partner of NEast Philly.