Trick Or Treat, Deserted Streets
The Halloween Apartment Blues
At the end of this month comes a holiday that involves strangers visiting the homes of other strangers. It's a great time for neighbors to get to know each other while passing down a great tradition to the next generation. However, like many Chicago residents, I live in a multi-unit building, two stories up from the street. Giving out candy on Halloween is kind of tricky. Kids rarely buzz up in multi-unit buildings, and it's tough to convey from way up here that I'm home and have candy to distribute.
I have no doubt that there are oodles of apartment renters in smaller multi-unit buildings - the ones that are too small to have a good number of kids living within - who are in the same position as me. If given a chance to participate in Halloween from the grownup side, they'd take it in a heartbeat but their living arrangements don't make it easy.
Spooky Houses By the Truckload
Meanwhile, on the same block, or nearby, in pretty much every Chicago neighborhood, stand homes that have been boarded up and taken over by banks in foreclosure. These houses are more than your standard haunted house. They are reallyscary, and to a trick-or-treating child they pose more than a little danger. Deserted for sometimes years, potentially harboring wildlife, squatters or worse, these homes are dangerous for children to visit or walk past alone. They drive down property values and have made the past 5 years of Halloweens pretty lousy in some sections of the city where block after block of board-ups extend as far as the eye can see.
You guys can already tell where I'm going with this.
So we've got residents who'd love to be able to hand out candy. And we've got boarded up houses that could use a little TLC, or at least a Halloween costume of safety for one evening. Wouldn't it be cool if we could figure out a way to pair up one with the other in a sort of grassroots effort for Halloween Night? We could call it Operation Porchlight. Think of the benefits:
- Neighbors become more aware of their local foreclosures.
- Kids get a safer street for trick-or-treating.
- Exposure to a foreclosed property may lead to purchase of that property.
- Temporary adoption of a home serves as a positive loitering activity that may keep the worse parts of society away from these buildings for a night.
- Occupying these buildings temporarily on what is traditionally the worst night of the year for vandalism & tagging may help to keep damage down.
- Apartment and condo dwellers who'd otherwise have to take a pass on the evening now get to help out the kids and help out the neighborhood all at once.
This idea actually hit me about a year ago on Halloween day, too late to do anything about it. But as of today, we've got a month to get something going. I think we may need to start up with just a few volunteers who would like to "adopt" a house - or at least a front porch - for the evening. I can pretty easily find out which bank has foreclosed on any given Chicago property and try to get permission for a candy-giver to hang out there for an evening. We'd need to figure out the insurance issues. We'd need to know which neighborhoods stay filled with kids and which are pretty much abandoned in favor of the suburbs. But I think it's possible to accomplish.
I would love to see this kind of thing take off. Does it interest you at all? If so, leave a comment and please share this with other parties who might be able to help, either banks with REO departments, neighborhood foreclosure counselors, or other potential advisors.