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Monday, August 29, 2005

King of the Ghetto

The one-story corner commercial building at 4501 Swan Avenue was until last month home of the Genesis Mission, an outreach organization for homeless people. Say what you want about Genesis -- and there's probably a lot to say -- they had the building in use during daytime hours seven days a week. They were evicted in July, and thus began a cycle of trouble that may still be very young.

First, almost immediately after the mission closed, homeless people began sleeping on chairs on Taylor Avenue up against the building. Then, the mission threw out all of their remaining donations into a huge dumpster. This work happened in one day's time, but the dumpster sat in front of their building for over one week, attracting illegal dumping. (Some folks came and salvaged items, including perfectly functional bicycles, winter coats and furniture!) Before the dumpster finally disappeared, the dealers showed up to play in the alley behind the building, taking advantage of the fact that a huge load of tree branches effectively blocks that alley and creates a great place for vice. Locals around here always avoid that alley, and now must avoid that corner.

The dealers are moderately aggressive, and seem to do well here. Why wouldn't they? This part of Forest Park Southeast is neglected, and the street closures and disrepair -- to be chronicled on our site soon -- make this a perfect place for crime. Oh, and this part of the neighborhood is a political pariah in many ways, so complaints are likely to be ignored.

Suffice to say that the corner of Taylor and Swan is becoming a trouble spot. We currently live near this corner, but are moving out in a few weeks to a northside neighborhood that is infinitely safer and prettier with a better sense of community. We can't wait -- but not all of our friends can move out or want to move out. Hopefully someone will take care of this corner, which would necessitate the larger goal of reopening closed streets and giving due political attention to this part of Forest Park Southeast.

By the way, the owner of 4501 Swan and the trash-strewn vacant lot across Taylor at 4461 Swan -- a lot that neighbors here keep mowing and cleaning -- might be familiar to some of us:

King Auto Financing Inc.
3300 South Kingshighway
St. Louis, MO 63139

King gets to safely sell cars elsewhere while the rest of us don't often invite friends over out of fear that their cars might get stolen. (Ours is your run-of-the-mill St. Louis beater, so we don't worry much.)

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