The majority of people often have an option of deciding where they want to live. Once the decision has been made, these people form a community that typically shares a desire for maintaining or acquiring a large population. In order to achieve these desires, the residents collaborate to improve appearances by establishing attractions such as parks, or simply repairing damages on the streets. However, in the Greenspoint area it seems that apathy is shared by the majority of the people. I believe that this abnormality is the effect of a population being “forced” to be a part of the community caused by unfortunate family or economic factors. As a result, the community does not have a common purpose that yields any form of improvement. Instead, it demonstrates that, within the lower-class district, there is a division between people who wish to leave and those who want to remain. The temporary residents have a more antisocial and modest kind of culture and try to avoid as much attention as possible, while the others express their stylish culture by familiarizing themselves around the neighborhood and decorating themselves in flamboyant colors. This shows that the long-lasting residents are not as afraid of crime as are the ones who want to leave.
The Greenspoint District is a 12-square-mile area that lies at the edge of Houston, Texas. It is bordered by the Hardy Toll Road to the east, Airtex Boulevard to the north, Veterans Memorial Drive to the west, and West Road to the south. There are many corporate and apartment buildings, which are cluttered together in such a way that allows one to view the other with little to no struggle. These establishments share high elevation, dark colors, and undecorated structures. The streets and sidewalks both suffer from cracks and breaks. There are also potholes filled with debris on many streets. At one point, I personally counted two of them within 3 minutes of driving down a single street. On some curves, one can see that there is a chunk of concrete missing, which exposes a rusted iron bar that signifies the lack of maintenance in months. There are also various amounts of foliage ranging from small shrubs to trees taller than some buildings. The grass does receive quite a bit of attention from the local government, but anything taller than a man has to rely on an act of nature or divine intervention for a simple trim. Most of my main observations are made from my personal travels within the community, as well as my own domain.
Over the past couple of weekends, I made a number of attempts to conduct surveys with other people besides my own family. I figured that normal communities would be more relaxed at the end of the week, and therefore more sociable. However, Greenspoint is an abnormal, poverty-stricken community, so the result was quite the opposite of my expectations. Out of the eleven apartments that I visited, 4 opened their door, and 2 very briefly answered my questions. I had no other choice but to include people that I personally knew who lived in the district, as part of my surveys. It was not until later, towards the end of my surveys, that I recognized the people that were more comfortable taking a stroll within the neighborhood were also more easily approachable. As I rushed towards them in order to extract an interview, they put up precautionary defenses like walking faster or standing tall, but once I explained my intentions, they became more amiable. It was then that I noticed that the population behaved differently because they had two noticeably different purposes for living in this particular area. As a result of poverty, crime surged through the community, so the majority of the people behaved in a highly defensive manner in order to avoid attention. The minority, who planned on staying, were not as defensive as the others.
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast of the United States. Consequently, many people were forced to migrate into the surrounding areas, particularly the city of Houston. Afterwards, a large portion of the population was left with little to no money. For these new residents, the Greater Greenspoint District was the perfect asylum. It provided apartments that were very easy to afford with prices going as low as $500 a month. However, this new life was forced upon them, and the people would eventually yearn to return to their original home. Moreover, the purpose of these people living in Greenspoint was not to thrive, but to earn enough money or catch an opportunity to leave. As a result, they try to avoid any interaction with other residents by staying inside their home, and walking outside only when it is absolutely necessary. In fact, many of these types of families did not even allow their children to play outside and socialize with the other children. In one of the interviews that I conducted, I came across an African American female living two buildings away from my own. When I approached her door and knocked, she answered by opening the door to the point where I could only see half her body. I asked for an interview and she reluctantly agreed as long as it did not last any longer than the commercials on the television. Additionally, she asked for anonymity; this is EXACTLY how the survey turned out:
Question: “How often do you interact with other people in the neighborhood besides your family?” Answer: “I rarely talk to other people. If I don’t mess with anybody, then nobody will mess with me.”
Question: “What are your feelings towards your community and its members? Why?” Answer: “I think that the people living here, even me, feel threatened by all the gunshots and stuff like that.”
Question: “How long have you been here and how long do you plan on staying?” Answer: “I moved in around eight months ago, and I plan on leaving as soon as hell.”
By carefully analyzing her vague responses and antisocial behavior, one can easily identify the fact that she does not want to interact with others, or be a part of the community in general.
Additionally, many other factors can force a person to live in Greenspoint. This part becomes a bit personal since I was actually pulled into the community multiple times throughout my life. Very specific events occurred in my family that placed me in the district, but generally, my story should be easily relatable to my neighbors. Before I was born, my parents lived in a single three-bedroom house along with three other families. Eventually, certain issues led to all the families leaving to find their own homes. We all caught the short end of the stick, which meant we were all living in poverty. By this time, I was about seven years old. This was the first time that my family was forced to move into Greenspoint. After a couple of years, my mother had finally saved enough money to move to Mexico, where my father was living. Because of marital issues, my mother thought it was best to return to the United States within the same year. This marked the beginning of a vicious cycle. The next several years were basically the same; each time we moved out, we found ourselves moving back in. As a result, the behavior my family exhibited closely resembled that of the Gulf Coast migrants. As soon as my mother enters the community, she heads straight to her apartment. Upon arrival, she remains indoors until the day begins and has to leave for work. The highest level of interaction she will have with anyone is saying a modest hello. On the weekends, we typically try to find activities to do outside of the district. What I am trying to say is that most people who are forced to live in Greenspoint are often times unwilling to socialize with the community around them. This results in a lack of collaboration to improve the area as a whole.
In contrast, there is a small population that actually wants to be a part of the Greater Greenspoint District. Based on one of the interviews I conducted, these people became a part of the community under similar circumstances. However, their plan varied greatly from the others. I came across a particular Hispanic man when I was walking between buildings. He was gallantly walking on the side of the street when I approached him. I told him about the survey, and he agreed on the terms that I wouldn’t use his real name.
Question: “How often do you interact with other people in the neighborhood besides your family?” Answer: “Well I kinda know a lot of people, know what I’m sayin’? So I end up talkin’ to different people all the time.”
Question: “What are your feelings towards your community and its members? Why?” Answer: “I mean there are some bad people around here, but everybody seems alright for now”
Question: “How long have you been here and how long do you plan on staying?” Answer: “I’ve been here for about two years, and I don’t really know when I’m gonna leave Greenspoint, but I have been thinking about moving to another apartment.”
When comparing and contrasting the responses and behaviors from the Hispanic man to the African American woman, the differences seem to be quite significant. On one hand, you have the majority of the Greenspoint community that chooses not to interact by keeping to themselves. On the other hand, there is a small portion of the population that wants to be a part of a growing, healthy community. They interact with other neighbors in a positive way by simply starting a conversation with a complete stranger, or taking a leisurely stroll across the community. These endeavors are believed to help the community become a better place.
I also decided to conduct an oral interview with Edna Canizales, a fellow resident of the Greater Greenspoint District. Once I began analyzing her responses to my questions, I realized that we shared similar views regarding the neighborhood. When asked about what she liked least about Greenspoint, Canizales mentioned that she hated hearing gunshots in the middle of the night. These night events are obviously dangerous, so the result is a population that is discouraged to interact with others. I also asked her what she thought of the quality of Greenspoint, and she said that it was definitely not best, but it was not the worst. This is also the conclusion that I drew when I was analyzing my peers’ papers. However, there are also some statements she made that I disagree with. For example, I asked her if the community was improving, and she said that it was. Canizales specifically mentioned that the Houston Police Department has been creating an increased sense of security. I can see how the involvement of the HPD can be the result of a growing community that cares about the neighborhood, but it is my belief that, nowadays, Greenspoint is stuck where it is, neither improving nor declining. One of the final questions I asked was her reason for living in this community, and she said that the apartments here were all she could afford at the time. Similarly to the residents I mentioned before, Edna Canizales was also forced to live here because of economic difficulties.
Moreover, I decided to read an article titled THE ASSOCIATION OF MULTIPLE NEIGHBORHOOD PERCEPTIONS WITH DEPRESSION AMONG A HIGHLY IMPOVERISHED URBAN SAMPLE. I realized that some of what the authors mentioned applied to my community. A generally well-known fact about depression is that it causes anti-social behavior. In the article, it is mentioned that the lack of safety and the fear of crime may be associated with depression in highly impoverished communities. Throughout the history of Greenspoint, there have been many crimes that usually go unsolved. This has caused a large growth of fear in many of the residents. The worst side-effect of this fear is the stress that builds up because the resident is constantly worrying about being the next victim of a crime. The way the community controls social order has been the most consistent link to depression. According to the article, a disorderly society has high amounts of vandalism, trash, drug sales, and other crimes and incivilities. As a member of the Greenspoint community, I agree that these social disorders are present throughout the neighborhood. In fact, I used to believe that there was a drug dealer living next door to me, but my thought process may or may not have been influenced by my mother’s own paranoia. In retrospect, I can also see how the Greenspoint residents may feel like they have a lack of control in their lives. In my paper, I repeatedly mentioned that many people were forced to be a part of a lower-class community. By unwillingly doing something, one can feel like there is a sinister force taking control of his/her life. This lack of control can sometimes be linked to depression in highly impoverished communities.
I realized that people living in the district with the purpose of eventually leaving will avoid most types of social interactions. Because these people are in the majority, there are little to no attempts to improve living conditions within the area. Similarly to my mother, their antisocial attitude results in defensive behavior such as avoiding confrontations with neighbors by zooming into their homes. Contrary to the majority, there are a very small number of people that made the decision to carry out their lives within the community. These people are, often times, more open to social interactions and familiarizing themselves around the neighborhood. Unfortunately, due to their small numbers, any attempts in repairing their district are futile. In the Greater Greenspoint District, the purpose of living in the community is the factor that determines how a portion of the residents will behave, not their race.
Anonymous, Female. Personal Interview. Oct. 4, 2014.
Anonymous, Male. Personal Interview. Oct. 5, 2014.
Evans-Polce, Rebecca, Alicia Hulbert, and Carl Latkin. “The Association Of Multiple Neighborhood Perceptions With Depression Among A Highly Impoverished Urban Sample.” Journal of Community Psychology 41.1 (2013): 52-64. Web.
Canizales, Edna. Personal Interview. Nov. 20, 2014.
Jose Reyes is a recipient of the Stayton Scholarship in Academic Essay in 2015.