Oak Park Health: A failing grade

CourtnyThe common definition of “healthy” is simple:

In good health; indicative of, conducive to, or promoting good health. Synonymous with well, fine and fit.

When I look at these words and consider their meaning, they have nothing to do with my neighborhood.

I can’t see where I could use the word “well” because Fruit Ridge Elementary school is closed for business.

It’s never “well” when children are being deprived of education and have to travel farther from their homes to attend school. This leads to tardiness and absences. All parents don’t have cars. And the city bus is very expensive for daily rides, which means a shuttered school could lead to not going to school at all.

old oak parkThere is nothing “fine” about eight plus liquor stores within 1½ miles of each other. And there is definitely nothing “fit” about five fast food businesses within one mile of another.

I live in Oak Park. And after careful inventory of my neighborhood within 2½ miles, I found the following facts:

Between 23d Street off Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Broadway at American Legion High School, which is about seven or eight walking blocks, there are five liquor stores.

And there are alcoholic loiterers, homeless people, drug addicts and dealers, plus two elementary schools in close proximity to the liquor stores, one daycare, one community center, one fire station, Christian Brothers, a prominent private high school where students are dropped off by their parents or guardians and they go to class. (I’m always amazed how really good schools are in bad neighborhoods.)

Then there’s American Legion High School, a Sacramento City Unified school where most students walk to school and hang out in front of three of the five liquor stores within two blocks of each other, some smoking weed before school starts. I’ve seen this with my own eyes.

Next, I went from Broadway to Stockton Boulevard. The inventory is as follows: one newly built senior complex, which is nice for the elderly, one church, one funeral home, one barber shop, one shopping center with a bank, grocery store, and a Walgreens, two fast food restaurants, a turf where gangsters and dealers hang out, homeless people by unforeseen circumstances and choice, the mentally challenged who need help because they walk around talking to themselves and their hygiene needs immediate attention.

There was a man who literally soiled his pants while walking as if nothing was wrong. People are in need of help.

Then I went from Stockton Boulevard back up 14th Avenue. There is significant prostitution in this area. What is healthy about that: HIV, AIDs, STD’s, Tuberculosis and death.

There is one fire station, a mom and pop pharmacy, a theatre that needs renovation, numerous abandoned buildings, which are never good for a neighborhood, two churches that look uninhabited Monday through Saturday and alive on Sunday only (something wrong with that picture), one barber shop, fast food, and homelessness by unforeseen circumstances or choice. As I walked back up 14th Avenue, I passed three more liquor stores.

After doing this neighborhood inventory I came to the conclusion that there are a few good resources in the area but there is a whole lot of negative.

I can’t remember when I went into a “nice” neighborhood and saw five-plus liquor stores within six to eight blocks of each other, drug dealing right on the streets and prostitutes working day and night.

Living where I live may be healthy to some because this is all they have and they accept it. To others, it can be unhealthy. Having to live in this neighborhood is not a choice, but what one can afford.

My neighborhood could be better if it were treated with equal care as affluent neighborhoods receive. Every American city and state should have to afford every community with decency. Why only care about neighborhoods where the houses are mini-mansions and the residents are well off financially? Why are those occupants better than tenants who live in not so well off communities?

A lot of people in poorer communities want nice surroundings. Why put eight liquor stores in a mile or two of each other in any neighborhood – unless it’s a ploy to get those who don’t drink to try their first sip, young people included.

No community needs that. Yes, my neighborhood is unhealthy. But if given a vigorous overhaul, it could become a well, fine and fit place to live.

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