April 7, 2020

Know Your Neighbors


Picture the home where you live. What would you do if you saw drugs being sold just 30 feet from your front door?

What if you saw people having sex in a car, 30 feet from your front door?

What if you saw drinking on the sidewalk during the day, just 30 feet from your front door?

What if one day at noon, you saw a guy taking out his you-know-what in public in broad daylight and urinating on the church fence, 30 feet from your front door?

What if one morning, as you and your spouse are away at work, one of these guys breaks into your house in broad daylight, ransacks your bedrooms, steals your money, and leaves you violated, scared and vulnerable?

Well, this last incident is what happened to me last Wednesday. I live across from St. Brendan’s Church, home to the Good Neighbors Day Shelter and Soup Kitchen. My house was robbed by a perpetrator who was seen by an eyewitness and caught on video going to and from the shelter. Five cops and a detective showed up, guns drawn, thinking the guy was still inside. It was beyond scary. My husband missed a day of work to meet with the alarm company, fix our window and clean up the mess in our bedrooms.

Some of these incidents are what I have personally witnessed. The others are what my neighbor has. She is is a young, stay-at-home mom with two small children who can’t play in their own front yard for fear of what they are being exposed to.

You see, every day, twice a day at minimum, there are people who walk from the bus stop, past our home, to get to and from the shelter. They also cut through the bike path and side road past our house. We used to see the same people. We now see transients. These are not our neighbors, families seeking help. These are people from Providence, Cranston and beyond. It brings an element to our quiet neighborhood, into Riverside, into our City, where they do not belong.

It’s escalated to the point where my husband and I are afraid to leave our house unattended, despite having an alarm system.

There are so many “what ifs.” What if I came home for lunch that day? What if he had a gun? What if it happens again?

But take a moment to think about this…what if Good Neighbors was 30 feet from your home? In your neighborhood?

What if Good Neighbors relocated? Moved away from the family-oriented residential neighborhood that it’s in? What if we could go back to having a peaceful street? In my opinion, Good Neighbors belongs in some building on a bus line in a commercially zoned area – not a neighborhood where its clients have to walk blocks from the bus to get to it.

I never thought I’d be a “not in my backyard” kind of person. But I am now. It’s not getting better, it’s only getting worse.

What’s it going to take? Someone to get hurt? Or worse?

I turn to my Christian faith, thinking Good Neighbors is helping people. But I draw the line when a place brings with it a behavioral element that’s disorderly, disgusting and commits crimes.

I thought of my Rotary Club. We had a meal and a tour there once when it first opened. I’ve donated household items and clothing there. Two ladies in my Club used to volunteer there….until they no longer felt safe.

The one thing this situation has done, is made a neighborhood come together and build some better friendships and communication with each other. How sad that we all had to be united through crime.

One of our neighbors has organized a meeting to discuss Good Neighbors at the Riverside Library on the evening of March 12th. I’m planning on sharing my story there, and ask you to help spread the word so we have a strong turnout.

Thank you.
Betty Galligan, Riverside


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