Two cities

Bellvue, PA-Baden, PA, 14.2 miles

The sidewalks along Route 65 in Emsworth are in such a state of disrepair that in many places grass and weeds have fully reclaimed the concrete. When I was walking, I passed no one.

Just a little north lies the town of Sewickley. The sidewalks are pristine. There are parks and large beautiful houses. There are dozens of nice shops and restaurants. But, if you work at many of these shops and restaurants, you cannot afford to live in town.

Two towns, two different problems.

When I talked to people at the Emsworth Inn about my efforts to draw attention to poverty and homelessness in this country they suggested I need look no further. Certainly many homes in the town are in disrepair and the sidewalks are crumbling. And there is no thriving downtown. But, to those who despair at the state of their town, I suggest they need look only at themselves. It does not take a great deal of money to clean up trash on your yard; plant a few flowers or trees; and trim the weeds on the sidewalk. Poverty is no excuse to abandon your community and leave it to decay and rot. And it is noticed when a town does not make the effort to take care of small things like sidewalks. It suggests to residents that they are not important–they are not worthy of the effort to keep Emsworth looking nice.

Sewickley could not be more different. The town is beautiful and its homes, parks and sidewalks well maintained. But, if there are not affordable places to live in town, there will be no one to work in the stores that provide a tax base and make Sewickley a nice place to live. Similarly, if residents do not want a community with only a few chain stores and a large mall on the outskirsts of town they must support their local businesses. A successfully community is not a theme park. It is not a place to walk by and look but never shop.

So, the next time you despair at the state of your neighborhood, or fail to patronize its businesses, realize that you have the power to ensure your neighborhood thrives or fails. What you do with that power is up to you.

– By Jennifer E. Cooper