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The year that my girls were 4 and 9, I got a huge job opportunity in another city. I didn’t know the city at all, but I had already worked for the owner of the business previously, so I felt comfortable relocating for the job. It turns out I ended up renting an apartment in a really bad neighborhood – an eye-opening experience, to say the least.
The day I drove four hours away to find a new place to live, one of the places was in a quirky old Victorian house. The 2-bedroom apartment was on the second and third floor of the house and had all sorts of charming nooks and crannies, plus a giant loft on the third floor for the girls to share. It was well within my budget, and the owner didn’t even have me fill out a formal application.
Where were you living, and for how long?
When I went to see the place, there were a few signs that should have tipped me off, but I completely missed them at the time. None of the other tenants were around, so I assumed they were all working-class folks like me. The apartment and hallways were clean on the day of my visit, but the exterior was a bit run down. Houses nearby were in various states of disrepair as well. But I had my eye on the price, and it was by far the largest apartment I had looked at in my price range, so I happily committed to renting it for a year.
We lived in an old house that had been divided up into five apartments in a sketchy part of a small city in southern Ontario, Canada. I had no idea when renting it that we’d be living in a bad neighborhood.
What issues arose due to living in a bad neighborhood?
The day we moved in, I began to get a bad vibe. My mother had come up to Canada to help me get moved with the girls, and I’d hired a truck with two guys to carry our stuff up the stairs. When we arrived, the screened porch through which we entered was populated by several men who catcalled me when I was going up the stairs.
I brushed it off and thought I was letting my imagination run away with me. When my mother and the kids arrived, my mom also expressed some doubt about my new neighbors. The girls were excitedly exploring all the nooks and crannies of our new home.
The first night was extremely loud
People were shouting in the hallway, a couple was fighting, and I was awakened by the blue lights and sirens of police cars going down the road three separate times. The next day my mom was headed back to the US, and she told me to make the best of it. I started my new job the day after that, so I worked as fast as I could to get unpacked during my single day off. The entire time I was unpacking, I felt a strong sense of unease as I began to realize we were living in a bad neighborhood.
The third night was terrifying, and I knew for sure that I’d made a terrible mistake. Some guy banged at our flimsy door asking if I wanted to “be friendly” and have a drink with the neighbors. I said that I was putting my kids to bed and didn’t open the door. I heard the guy rattling my doorknob, and the night was punctuated by a fight in the hallway.
A few days later, I was bringing the girls home after school and daycare, and a fight erupted as we were going up the stairs. The next thing we knew, men were brawling and throwing beer bottles at one another. There was shattered glass everywhere. We rushed up the stairs and locked the door, and I thought, I’ve got to get out of here.
What did you do for groceries and a clean water supply?
I used food that I had put back in my pantry and moved with us. The water was just normal city water and wasn’t bad. I didn’t want to spend a dime I didn’t have to because the second I had the money to do it, I was moving out.
Did you have any dependents or pets while living in a bad neighborhood?
My two daughters lived with me, along with our cat. I was really worried that when my ex-husband came to pick up the girls, he wouldn’t want to bring them back to live in a bad neighborhood like that.
How did you keep yourself safe living in a bad neighborhood?
As I mentioned before, the door was very flimsy. Even I could have broken it in with a sturdy kick. I didn’t want the girls to be afraid, so I kept the television or radio on loudly so they couldn’t hear as much of what was going on out in the corridor.
After the night of the fight, I began fortifying my position to the best of my ability. Keep in mind I was living in a country where I couldn’t have a firearm. Nonetheless, I decided that if anyone was coming in, they’d have to get through me first.
After the girls were tucked in every night, I pulled the sofa in front of the door and slept on it, fully charged cordless phone in my hand. That way, at the very least, nobody could sneak in. I never spent another night in the bedroom of that apartment while we were living in a bad neighborhood.
I spent the rest of the time we lived there on my sofa dragged in front of the door.
Each morning, I was up before the girls and pushed the sofa back to its spot so they wouldn’t see how freaked out their mom was. The kids were not allowed to talk to the neighbors or play outside the entire time we lived there.
In the five weeks we spent living in a bad neighborhood, the police were at our building more than once a week. We had to pick our way down the stairs through broken beer bottles on a regular basis. The neighbors thought I was “unfriendly” and “snobby.”
What was your income like, and how did you stick to a low-budget while living in a bad neighborhood?
I had relocated for a new, higher-paying job. We’d been living pretty much hand to mouth before this opportunity arose. So, I stuck with the strategies we’d had before, putting back every single dime for the day that I could relocate.
How did you get yourself out of the situation?
I spent five weeks living in a bad neighborhood. First and last month’s rent were paid, so I just didn’t pay rent the second month. I saved every penny I could and had to get an advance at work to pay deposits on another place. My boss thought I was being melodramatic until I invited him over. He cut me a check for the deposit the next day.
Even with the big raise, moving twice in five weeks was almost a death blow to my budget. Once we got to our safe new location money was still very tight. I spent at least three more months paying back my advance and tackling the higher rent. We didn’t really end up reaping the rewards of the better-paying job for about six months.
What was your biggest takeaway? If you could give any piece of advice to someone going through a similar situation, what would it be?
If you are relocating to another city, go to the expense of staying overnight. Visit your prospective home at different times during the day to get a better feel for the neighborhood. If you have bad vibes, listen to them – because you’re probably right. And if a huge, freshly painted apartment seems too good to be true, there’s probably a reason the rent is so low.
Figure out ways to fortify your home from intruders and have a plan in case someone gets through your fortifications. There’s a fine line between scaring the snot out of your kids and explaining enough to keep them safe. I’d rather err on the scary side than not tell them enough for them to keep their guard up.
What are your thoughts about living in a bad neighborhood?
Have you ever lived in a really bad neighborhood? How did you end up there? How did you stay safe? Let’s talk about living in a bad neighborhood in the comments.
Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, adventure-seeking, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites. 1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty; 2) The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived; and 3) PreppersDailyNews.com, an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. Her work is widely republished across alternative media and she has appeared in many interviews.
Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books, 12 self-published books, and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses at Learn.TheOrganicPrepper.com You can find her on Facebook, Pinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.
9 thoughts on “Lifestyles of the Flat Broke: Living in a Really Bad Neighborhood”
A great article Daisy thanks for sharing. A appreciate the advice you offer for someone relocating.
While a poor student I was visiting a friend from school in what I thought was a nice neighborhood in a large city. It wasn’t the best part of town but it wasn’t Mad Max either. One night we were almost victims of a robbery by two guys. But we managed to talk our way out of it. I realize now that the neighborhood was more like a ghetto. Being young and ignorant can put you in bad situations through no fault of your own. My spidey sense didn’t work then and I wouldn’t trust out now.
My advice to some one relocating is to get a crime map of the city you’re moving to and note the kinds of crimes and frequency.
Wow, that must be scary with fairly young kids! That sounds very much like the neighbourhood I live in now – was it Windsor, by any chance? I live in a bad neighbourhood here, although most of what I have to deal with is less dangerous – just the person on one side using both my front and back yard as her personal garbage dump every week, and regularly stealing my garbage and recycling bins so I have to buy new ones, and the drug dealers on the other side vandalizing my car and property and making it unsafe to use my back yard or porch when their friends are over. But I do at least feel it’s safe to sleep in my bed at night, once I’ve double locked the door. I have definitely learned from this place that it’s better to get a smaller, plainer house in a good neighbourhood than a larger antique filled with old world charm in a dodgy area with bad neighbours.
When we moved to a new area of the state, I called the local and state police to ask about crime rates. After their initial response of “you want to know what”, they were very forthcoming in advice on what areas to avoid. Helped tremendously in choosing a good and affordable rental.
We’ve lived in several trailer parks over the years, and even though they weren’t high end (yes, there really are such places), they weren’t bad, either. The worst thing that ever happened in one was when our son’s bicycle was stolen off of our patio in broad daylight. That was in a suburb of Houston and the corner store had bars on the windows, but the park itself was clean and safe.
However, twice when we were traveling, we realized upon arrival that the hotels we’d reserved rooms in were in bad neighborhoods with sexually oriented businesses nearby or on the property itself. We didn’t stay either time. The only trouble we had was at the one in Houston (again) at a Holiday Inn. We had pre-paid and the manager refused to refund our money but I wasn’t staying there.
Yes definitely check out the neighborhood at night and at different times. If there are able bodied adults hanging around doing nothing, it’s a very bad sign. They do have a jobs. They’re working for the drug dealers and are doing crimes. If there are many men between the ages of about 19 to 35 sitting on porches all day long, another bad sign. Is there a lot of extreme noise, loud music and activity late at night until the early hours of the morning? Are there a lot of broken bottles, discarded items and garbage in the streets? Graffiti? Do random people on your block ask you for money even though you don’t know them? Do not give them money or anything else. Because if you do, they will never leave you alone and may mug you the day you decide to stop handing over money. Don’t respond and keep your antenna up. When you go to work in the morning and when you come home at night, are the same people standing/sitting in the same place? These are all terrible signs. Move as soon as possible. Have your phone lines been cut? Do people throw garbage and bottles out their windows at you? Are there a lot of rats in the street? Do not try to be friendly or helpful. It will label you as easy pickings, a victim. The street is assessing you. There’s networks and loyalties in the street you know nothing about. You will never fit in. Don’t purchase illegal drugs near where you live. If you have to, go somewhere far away to do so. Don’t try to help anyone at all. You will be victimized. If you have to call the police or 911 do it where no can hear or see you. If someone else is being victimized, yes, call 911 but don’t tell anyone it was you that called. Don’t tell them anything about yourself, your job, what you do for a living or your interests. Make up a name and use that if they want to know your name. Say something like if you go to such and such place and ask for (your fake name) they all know me. Tell them I said hi. Keep blinds and curtains on your windows and use them. Do not keep the blinds open at night. Make sure no one can climb in your windows or get in your door. As soon as you get inside your place, lock that door. The mail should not be going to an outside box, either in a letter slot or in a locked mailbox. Get a post office box so no one can steal your mail. Be careful of your garbage. Always shred papers even if you think they’re not important. Anything with your name or important data, shred, cut up or burn. Wow this is exhausting . So glad I don’t live there anymore. I learned really good stuff there that I still use. though. If you are a woman living alone or with children, make sure male friends come over once in a while, if you don’t have a regular boyfriend. If you have to, you can always insinuate that your husband is locked up for murder, but he’s innocent. That should offer you a bit of protection. Read a book, The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker. Great stuff. Sad to say, don’t trust anyone. The day I moved from there was the happiest day of my life.
I eventually moved into a really nice building far from that place but the quality of life started to slide as more and more homeless shelter residents were placed in the building. I learned to not speak to anyone to avoid hostile confrontations that some of my neighbors were determined to create. The lobby, elevator and door ways were the difficult places since the hostiles hung around the doors. I have moved from there and am happy in a very quiet place now.
Extremely valuable! Some of it is counterintuitive. I used to teach severely emotionally disturbed students in a bad neighborhood where I taught the kids adaptive skills. I would tell most of them to not try those skills at home. Being healthy in an unhealthy place can get kids in a very bad place very quickly. That sounds awful but I learned a depth of respect for the grit and acumen these children.
I copied your advice and will take it to heart. Thanks.
Valuable article, but the comments are priceless! The advice is solid and unfortunatelly I have learned it the hard way.
I had ‘bad vibes’ about two places I was considering at different times in my life; both had the apt upstairs but sole entrance downstairs: someone could hide and be ready to pounce whether I was coming home or leaving for work. I’d gone to look at them a few times, and each time for both, the ‘vibes’ just grew stronger. We really do have to pay attention to that inner feeling.
I used to live in a nice area, but change in local gov, policy puts homeless people, troubled young men, in first, ahead of everyone else, music, shouting, no work over grown gardens, ect ect, area has gone downhill rapidly, a lot of good neigbours soon left, who had been their for years,