I had a short check list: easy biking distance to work, room for my family to visit, a place to put a smoker. My Zillow search was significantly limited, but included a recently renovated 1915 craftsman house.
I just relocated to Raleigh, NC, accepted a position at a startup, and was looking for housing. I knew little about the city, but felt drawn to the classic southern style houses on the east side of town.
313 Camden St had a small back yard. Best of all it was next door to a community garden and the bedrooms had a view onto the growing boxes.
But there was one drawback. The house was on a narrow street directly facing a low income housing development.
I drove through the neighborhood a few times during the day and didn’t see anything unusual. I signed a lease.
I knew the east side of Raleigh had a reputation of being the more dangerous part of town, but with $600k town houses being constructed and a new warehouse food court going in, I felt those days were in the past. Raleigh is a safe city.
But even the safest city has its rough neighborhoods. Being new to Raleigh, little did I know that my corner, Camden and Martin, was a congregation point notorious for drug dealing, prostitution, and other elicit activities.
In May, one block away, a homeless person was killed and left dead on the front porch of a neighbor’s house.
In 2009 a 28 year old was shot and killed on the 300 block of Camden street as part of a gang initiation. Although it was a long time ago, after reading the account, I started being haunted by the vision of the victim dying on the front steps of my porch.
I watched the neighborhood and became increasingly agitated with the overt drug activity, domestic disputes, and constant loitering. I felt uncomfortable sitting on my porch.
I starting to have nightmares about being attacked walking home from work with my laptop. I envisioned my guests being harassed on the street. I felt unwelcome. In other words, I panicked. I emailed my landlord and negotiated exiting the lease.
I signed a lease on a mundane house on the West Side of Raleigh, close to a coffee shop, and isolated from the problems across town.
I can’t help but being disappointed with myself. I don’t know if my neighbors on Camden St posed a real threat, or if I was afraid of a culture I didn’t understand. Now I will never know.