The Devastating Impact of Gentrification. And the Absolute Needâ€¨
I have now seen first hand (yes, inadvertently participated in) the devastating impact that gentrification can have on the poor of an urban community. I have faced panicking families at my front door who had just been evicted from their homes, their meager belongings set out on the curb. I have helped them in their frantic search to find scarce affordable apartments and have collected donations to assist with rent and utility deposits.
But I have also seen what happens to the poor when the “gentry” do not return to the city. The effects of isolation are equally severe. A pathology creeps into a community when achieving neighbors depart – a disease born of isolation that depletes a work ethic, lowers aspirations and saps human initiative. I have seen courageous welfare mothers struggle in vain to save their children from the powerful undertow of the streets. I have witnessed the sinister forces of a drug culture as it ravages unchecked the lives of those who have few options for escape. Without the presence of strong, connected neighbor-leaders who have the best interests of the community at heart, a neglected neighborhood becomes a desperate dead-end place.
The romantic notion that the culture of a dependent, poverty community must somehow be protected from the imposition of outside values is as naive as it is destructive. Neighborhoods that have hemorrhaged for decades from the “up and out” migration of their best and brightest need far more than government grants, human services and urban ministries to restore their health. More than anything else, they need the return of the very kinds of home-owning, goal-driven, faith-motivated neighbors that once gave their community vitality. In a word, they need the gentry.â€¨This leaves us in a bit of a quandary. The poor need the gentry in order to revive their deteriorated neighborhoods. But the gentry will inevitably displace the poor from these neighborhoods. The poor seem to get the short end of the stick either way.
This is Part 2 of a 6-part series on community development, justice and gentrification by Bob Lupton. Stay tuned to Verge Network every Friday for the remaining parts of this series of articles.Â
Bob Lupton has invested almost 40 years of his life in inner-city Atlanta. In response to a call that he first felt while serving in Vietnam, he left a budding business career to work with delinquent urban youth. Bob and his wife Peggy and their two sons sold their suburban home and moved into the inner-city where they have lived and served as neighbors among those in need. Their lifeâ€™s work has been the rebuilding of urban neighborhoods where families can flourish and children can grow into healthy adults.
Bob is a Christian community developer, an entrepreneur who brings together communities of resource with communities of need. Through FCS Urban Ministries â€“ a non-profit organization which he founded â€“ he has developed two mixed income subdivisions, organized a multi-racial congregation, started a number of businesses, created housing for hundreds of families and initiated a wide range of human services in his community. He is the author of the books Theirs in the Kingdom, Return Flight, Renewing the City, Compassion, Justice and the Christian Life and the widely circulated â€œUrban Perspectivesâ€, monthly reflections on the Gospel and the poor. Bob has a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Georgia. He serves as speaker, strategist, and inspirer with those throughout the nation who seek to establish Godâ€™s Shalom in the city.