What It’s Like Living in a Bad Neighborhood

I live in two “bad” neighborhoods. One is my apartment in Vegas, and the other is our shared apartment in Hawaii. The way I’d define both areas is that they’re among the cheapest housing in their respective cities, and they’re bad enough that when an Uber driver understands where you are going, they feel comfortable saying things like, “Oh wow, that’s a really bad place”. A guy in Vegas whose job is working with homeless people said encouragingly, “Don’t worry… you’ll make it out of there some day.”

In both cases, my primary motivation was the location, and in both cases the apartments are a handful of blocks away from some of the nicest areas in the city. I’ve also found that “bad area” usually means “non white people who aren’t rich live here” a lot more than it means that the place has problems. I’m sure that there are places I could live in other cities that would be actually dangerous or materially bad.

In both cases, there are a few neighbors that are disruptive. They’re loud at night or they argue loudly or they crank their car stereos as they leave for their jobs in the morning. I tend to get along with them okay and have never had any sort of confrontation. Our old downstairs neighbor in Hawaii seemed to probably be on meth and argued pretty loudly with her boyfriend. She also grew a really nice garden that we could see from our window and was really nice to us, so it was more of a disregard or lack of awareness around social norms. Or maybe it’s just drugs and alcohol.

There is probably also a slightly higher chance of being the victim of theft, though probably not any other crime. I think the actual chance of being a victim of these things is far lower than the perceived risk, though. The areas seem sketchy, but they tend to not be big targets since it’s assumed that if you live there you’re poor. The worst thing that happened was a few blocks away (in a much worse looking area) in Vegas an abandoned house became full of drug addict squatters and some subset of them launched a crime spree on our neighborhood. Our house was broken into, as were six others. According to the neighbors who had been there for decades, no one had been broken into there before. That isn’t entirely true, though, because someone reached under my gate once and stole my shoes.

We had a few hundred dollars of stuff stolen, plus a car which we actually got back a week later. Still, it was a weird violating experience.

On the other hand, my neighbors across the way have been gone for months and a package on their doorstep has been there for months. An Amazon package came to our Hawaii place late and it was still there a couple months later.

The best thing about living in a poorer neighborhood is that neighbors look out for each other and help each other more than any other place I’ve lived. When our place was broken into, three different neighbors came to guard our house, call the police, call us, and put a bike lock around the gate so that our place would be safe. When the communal mailbox broke, one of my neighbors met the mailman every day, got our mail, and slid it under our gate. I let her borrow my car for a week once. Another neighbor across the way would run out and get any package left in front of our gate and put a note on the door.

There are definitely some neighbors that don’t join the community in any form, and that’s ok too. But generally it’s nice to know people are looking out for you. As soon as I got back to Hawaii once it was possible to go without quarantine a neighbor rushed up to welcome me back and let me know that he’d been keeping in eye on our place. Our next-door neighbor gave us his wifi password and refused money repeatedly.

Another thing I like about living in poorer areas is that it keeps me a little bit grounded. Maybe not THAT grounded since I put in heated marble floors into my tiny apartment bathroom, but the vast majority of my friends are not “normal working class people”, and I like to at least have some real connection to people with different lives and backgrounds. It makes me grateful for everything I have and more sympathetic to people who don’t have it as easy as I do.

I wouldn’t say that you should go seek out the poorest area of town and live there, but I’d also say that you shouldn’t rule them out if the location and property works for you. My Vegas apartment has more than doubled in value since I bought it and is in literally the best geographic area of Vegas that I can imagine. My wife and I are in the process of moving (mainly to have a normal house rather than two adjacent apartments), and things are just slightly less convenient now.

Like so many things in life, perceptions don’t match expectations, and there’s opportunity there. Poor areas are probably not nearly as dangerous as you might imagine them to be, and there are some benefits you may not expect.

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Photo is a Christmas tree in Caesars Palace here in Vegas. I did an escape game there today.

Sunday night! Sorry this post is so late this week. I’ve been so preoccupied with moving and setting up the new house.

First, the bad.

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