Tuesday, January 19, 2010

In the Northside of Pittsburgh

There is a home across the street from where I live that houses a family that appears to very poor. They have several children, I would say between the ages of 5 and 13. They are your stereotypical “ghetto” family in a sense. They have a few broken down cars in their driveway that sit on 20in chrome rims, sheets instead of curtains in the windows, a couple of Pit bulls, and have been known to blast their loud hardcore rap music with windows and doors open late into the night. This house constantly has a flow of random people streaming in and out. My neighborhood was once full of these families, however, a revitalization of this part of Pittsburgh has driven most of them out. They are one of the remainders on our street. Their house looks to be in shambles from both the inside and out unlike the other houses that surround it. I’ve never really had any contact with these people other than a few times when they either asked for some change or a light for their cigarettes. Both to which I declined to give.

However, over the course of the summer, I would see the children walking towards their house with buckets and milk jugs full of water. I would see them drop them off and their mother would be waiting with several more of them to be filled up. Since the summer, I have probably seen this happen at least two dozen times. So it became clear to me that they do not have running water in their house. This greatly saddens me when I see kids living with parents who obviously cannot afford to take care of their children.

When I left my place this morning at 7:30 to go to work I was expecting it to be just like every other morning. Nothing exciting, sit in traffic, arrive to work late, etc. However, once I walked out of my place and looked across the street I noticed one of their younger children, probably no more than 8 or 9, with several buckets and small cereal bowl, and he was filling the bowl up with water and then pouring them into the bucket. The shocking thing was that he wasn’t getting the water from a spicket, he was dipping the bowl into a deep puddle in their dirt driveway where water had collected from melted snow and rain. I stood silent and watched as this boy who was only wearing sweat pants and a t-shirt in 30 degree weather looked around nervously as if embarrassed to be seen. I watched as the dirty brown water was carefully poured into the bucket so none of it spilled or splashed out. In that moment, I almost forgot I was in Pittsburgh, and thought I was in a third world country where water is a rarity. As I walked to my car, I could see him look up at me and stop in his water gathering. He appeared to be taken back as not expecting to see someone watching him. I waved my hand as to say hello and he did the same. I got in my car and watched as he bent back down to continue to the process. I sat and watched while tears started to form in my eyes. I was just blown away from what I just witnessed. I then called my boyfriend whom is a guidance counselor at a school and informed him of what I saw and asked if this would warrant calling CYF – Child Youth Services to investigate this family to see if their home is suitable for children to be living in, which from what I have seen, definitely is not. He said he would call.

As I pulled out of my garage, and drove off to work, I wondered how a family could ever let their children live a life like that. How you could wake up every morning and ask your child to go get water from a dirty puddle to bath or wash clothing in. I think it is downright disgusting and pitiful. I am not sure if what I did was the right thing or not, or how else I can assist these kids. But I am happy I did something. It may not have been a lot, but I at least made an effort. This is much more than this child’s parents are doing.

I spoke to my boyfriend and was informed CYF was called and they will have an investigator visit the house within the next 24 hours. I hope something good comes of it.


Michael Rivers said...

That is very sad. It's unreal the conditions some kids are forced to life in. You did the right thing!

JC said...

Okay, reading this made me start to tear up, too. I see all kinds of situations where parents do not, or cannot, take care of their children. It happens everywhere...everyday.

You absolutely did the right thing by calling child services. These kids deserve so much more and a much better life.

- JC

Anonymous said...

There are all kinds of programs available from social service agencies, utility companies, etc. that can help these people.

The adults may not be aware of them, or the adults may have a degree of mental illness, dysfunction, or addiction issues.

No child, especially in this country, should live like this.

You definitely did the right thing. I think it was a wise move on your part to have your boyfriend handle the call to CYS. Because of his position as a guidance counselor, CYS may treat this report with greater care and urgency.

Please let your readers know how this turns out.

Jeff, you are one of the good guys, and you do carry the fire.

You have a great blog. It's good to see you posting with more regularity.

Sean said...

You not only did the right thing, you did the moral thing.

Thank you.

Stephen said...

I was very moved by this post... please tell us how this is playing out.